For the travelers who try to navigate through Tysons Corner, the commercial hub of Northern Virginia has taken on yet another characteristic of an American city: It now gains and loses landmarks at a disorienting pace.
All four new Metrorail stations in Tysons are under construction. But Route 7 bulges out from its former course and looks like it’s being set up for an extreme steeplechase. A huge new ramp extends out at a right angle from the Westpark Drive Bridge toward the Capital Beltway, but throughout the high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes construction zone, some familiar lanes and ramps are giving way to new merges and left turns.
Here’s the tale of 2011 for travelers who find themselves in the middle of one of the nation’s most active work zones.
The X formed by Route 123 and Route 7 will continue to mark the heart of the Northern Virginia work zone in 2011, but challenges will evolve.
lThe HOT lanes project is more than half done, but the reconstruction of the Beltway interchanges in Tysons is one of the most complex parts. The closing of the ramp from eastbound Route 7 to the inner loop will be permanent. The replacement is a new traffic signal with dual left-turn lanes. At Route 123, the current traffic pattern with the closed ramp and the temporary traffic lights will remain until next year. Nighttime closings of Route 123 are coming soon so that steel can be lifted to support a new inner loop bridge.
lThe decking is in place for widening the Westpark Bridge. A traffic shift to the new portion, which will allow work on the other side of the bridge, is scheduled for June. Work will continue on the ramp connecting the bridge with the HOT lanes in the middle of the Beltway, just south of where the Beltway passes over Route 123.
lNorth of Westpark Drive, workers will spend the rest of this year elevating Jones Branch Drive about eight feet so that it can form a connection with the HOT lanes. The work narrows Jones Branch Drive to one lane in each direction. Traffic will shift first to the west and then to the east to clear work space.
lDrivers farther north at the Dulles Toll Road who have been complaining about extra congestion at the Beltway because of the HOT lanes construction should find the bottleneck eased by late June as work progresses.
lDrivers who approach Tysons Corner from the south along the Beltway will encounter some new weaves as the outer lanes open in segments and work begins on the inner lanes.
lWatch the skies over Tysons for the most dramatic evidence of progress on the Dulles Metrorail project, now more than a third complete. Gigantic horizontal cranes weighing 366 tons are assembling the precast concrete segments of the aerial guideways that will carry the tracks along Route 123 over the Beltway, then into a short tunnel at the 123/7 junction and then up the median of Route 7 to the Dulles Toll Road. Route 7 has been shifted as much as 60 feet to create the wider median for the railway, and the service roads are gone. The piers that will support the tracks are almost done. The two tubes of the tunnel have been bored through.
lThe rail guideway from the Dulles Connector Road to Route 123 is done, as is the guideway over the Westpark Drive Bridge. But in between, work continues on spanning the Beltway — more partial closings of the Beltway loops overnight, and this summer some complete closings will be required to complete that span. Such overnight closings will continue through the fall.
The HOT lanes are scheduled to be done in 2012 and the first phase of the Metrorail extension in late 2013. Work around Tysons Corner should continue till the projects end. During that time, most commuters, shoppers and long-distance travelers in the Tysons zone will continue to drive, but there are alternatives.
Express buses. PRTC OmniRide operates round trips between Woodbridge and Tysons. The one-way fare is $2.65 with a SmarTrip card or $3.30 with cash. Go to PRTCtransit.org or call 703-730-6664. Loudoun County Transit operates between Leesburg and Broadlands and Tysons. The one-way fare is $3 with SmarTrip or $3.50 if you’re using cash. Go to loudoun.gov/bus-tysons or call 703-777-0119.
Metrobus/Fairfax Connector. Many regular bus routes operate throughout Tysons Corner, including Fairfax Connector routes 401, 425, 427, and 574 and Metrobus routes 2C, 2T, 3T, 5A, 15K, 15L, 15M, 23A, 23C, 24T, 28A, 28B and 28T. Connections to other regional transit routes are available at the West Falls Church Metro station and the Tysons Westpark Transit Station. Go to wmata.com or fairfaxcounty.gov/connector.
Vanpools. Eligible commuters who work in Tysons Corner or commute and work along the Interstate 495 HOT lanes project can join a vanpool for $50 a month. The vanpool must be new and approved by the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Megaprojects office.
Call 703-586-0618 or e-mail Felicia Woodruff at
Telework!VA. This program offers advice on arrangements and financial subsidies that make it easier for employees to work from home or from telework centers. Visit teleworkva.org or call 866-469-1010. Some employers have received $35,000 to $50,000 from Telework!VA to start or expand their telework programs.
Commuter Connections. This network of commuter assistance programs for employers and employees encourages carpooling and vanpooling.
Call 800-745-RIDE or go to commuterconnections.org.