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Dulles Metro work at Tysons Corner comes between merchants and customers

Negotiating work trucks, traffic cones and Jersey barriers has become difficult for customers trying to get to Route 7 businesses.
Negotiating work trucks, traffic cones and Jersey barriers has become difficult for customers trying to get to Route 7 businesses. (Jahi Chikwendiu - Washington Post)
By Kafia A. Hosh
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tysons Corner merchants on Route 7 along the path of the rail extension to Dulles International Airport are struggling to do business in a construction zone and won't get relief any time soon.

The work on the first phase of the Silver Line, scheduled to open in 2013, has limited the visibility of many businesses and blocked entrances to parking lots.

Crews spent the past year burying utility lines and closing service roads along a one-mile stretch of Route 7 between Route 123 and the Dulles Toll Road. The corridor is home to one of Tysons' major retail cores, lined with low-slung strip malls, big-box stores and car dealerships. Rail construction has added to traffic delays along an already congested route. A midday lane closure last month resulted in a 45-minute backup.

"It's obvious I'm not getting the traffic I once had," said Harvey Kramer, owner of Ranger Surplus at the popular Pike 7 Plaza shopping center. The store, which sells military and camping gear, opened in 1994. Even accounting for the economic slowdown, "I'm sure we're losing a percent of people who just find the shopping center too inconvenient to get in and out of," Kramer said.

Construction limited access and took away several of the shopping center's parking spaces.

"The retail along here makes [construction] harder," rail project spokeswoman Marcia McAllister said.

Andre Edwards, marketing director for Rosenthal Nissan on Route 7, blames the construction for a 15 to 20 percent decrease in sales. The dealership is accessible from Route 7 only through a slight opening between Jersey barriers.

"If you want to turn right, God forbid, man," Edwards said with a sigh, shaking his head. "We have to talk to clients like it's a national emergency."

And the worst is yet to come.

Delays and distractions

Construction will soon begin on Route 7's two rail stations and the piers that will carry elevated tracks down the road's median. Lanes in both directions will shift into the former service roads to make room for the rail line.

Over the next 18 months, McAllister said, the delivery of construction materials will cause traffic delays, and the concrete piers being erected might be a visual distraction for drivers.

"It's not going to be free-flowing traffic," she said. "There's going to be big construction going on in the middle, and when you have that going on, you have people looking."

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