News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tysons Redevelopment and Toll Road Hikes: Now the Price is Really Gonna Wow Ya!

tysons.jpgHey, remember that time they were going to transform craptacular Tysons Corner, with its beautiful, urban-chic array of awful-looking office buildings and car lots into a sparkling new downtown, only they realized it would cost $15 billion and change to do so?

Yeah, that was awesome. Well, it turns out that number was totally off track, as it included the costs of such worthless projects as extending Metro out to some backwater called "Res-ton." Depending on who you ask, the real cost of urbanizing Tysons might be a mere $1.5 billion. Or maybe it's $2.7 billion, which when amortized over the 40-year span of the "plan," comes out to mere pennies a day, like that life insurance they hawk during daytime TV! Or maybe developers will pay for everything, forever, including the giant, gilded 60-foot-tall statue of Crystal Koons that will loom over the new urban enclave. It's gonna wow ya!

Taking a trip on the awesome Dulles Toll Road will also wow ya after Jan. 1, when tolls will increase to $1 at the main plaza and 75 cents at each off-ramp, as expected.

AAA Mid-Atlantic criticized the vote, calling the increases "patently unfair" for motorists in Loudoun County and for workers with low-paying jobs.

"We continue to be very concerned about the funding mechanism for the construction of rail to Dulles International Airport," Mahlon G. Anderson, the organization's director of public and government affairs, said in a statement. "The burden for funding is falling on the shoulders of a very small number of motorists."

Board members have shown no sign of wavering. After Wednesday's vote, H.R. Crawford, the chairman, said most people see the increases as modest. These people are practical and understand that the board needs the toll revenue to build the Metro line, he said.

"We had three meetings; there were no more than 35 people at every meeting," Crawford said. "There was no great outpouring of opposition."
But what about the novelty oversized pig?


  1. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO)November 5, 2009 at 2:34 PM

    So what is the "Plan B" for when half of the Toll Road commuters from the "Land of Dragons" we all know as Loudoun County decide to instead commute to work along Route 7, which is only two lanes in each direction and is already over-capacity, to save a few bucks? Looks like it's back to waking up at 4:45 AM for me to get to work before the "Brakelight Cha-Cha Line" to McLean starts!

  2. I'd probably still take the toll road since I don't use the mainline plaza. But I usually only take the toll road in the morning because I'm traveling west away from traffic. At night it's too much of a bother to try to get on it and doesn't make my commute any quicker so I take side roads, like Sunset Hills and whatnot.

  3. Those poor Mr. Anderson reffered to most likely ride the bus anyways so ditto to that argument. What motorists are paying for is a faster commute in a couple of years. The same people that use the 267 to get to work will enjoy a much faster commute if they choose to use Metrorail when it comes out.

  4. "The same people that use the 267 to get to work will enjoy a much faster commute if they choose to use Metrorail when it comes out."

    That's true for people who work downtown, but remember that many (I think most?) people who live in the DC suburbs do not work downtown, but in other suburbs. Unfortunately the metro isn't designed for those kinds of commuters- it's designed to go in and out of the city. I used to work in Rockville, and even though Rockville has a metro stop I would have had to go all the way downtown and them come back out again- I figured the commute would have gone from 25 minutes (I left early in the morning) up to around 1:45.

    Has anyone done a study as to how many of the commuters on 267 are actually going downtown? My guess is it's not the majority by a longshot, but I don't know for sure.

  5. "...but remember that many (I think most?) people who live in the DC suburbs do not work downtown, but in other suburbs."

    It's definitely "most." I can't find explicit stats on this, but some quick googling and wiki-ing shows that DC accounts for only 25% of the Metropolitan Area's overall employment, and about 20% of those employees are DC residents.

  6. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO)November 6, 2009 at 11:11 AM

    So will our massive infrastructural problems in Northern Virginia EVER be corrected if the vast majority of suburban commuters commute to a myraid of other suburbs, most not presently serviced by sufficient mass transit? I made the mistake last night of trying to drive into the District to visit a friend. It took me over two hours to get to Glover Park in NW from Reston via Georgetown Pike (Route 193) to Dolley Madison Boulevard to the Chain Bridge. I thought I-66 was HOV-only inside the Beltway, hence not being able to use that, and I thought Route 7 to Seven Corners and then Wilson Boulevard through North Arlington and over the Key Bridge and up through Georgetown would have been just as bad as the route I had taken.

    I wasn't sure how to get to Glover Park from Reston via mass transit. I was figuring I could have taken the Fairfax Connector bus from Reston Town Center to the West Falls Church Metro station, take the orange line and get off at Rosslyn, take the bus from Rosslyn over to Georgetown, and then walk up the hill to Glover Park, but that probably would have taken just as much time in the end as driving and getting stuck in that massive traffic jam.

    This area has the WORST suburban traffic I've EVER experienced. I really don't know what the solution would be, either, other than to promote more transit-oriented development, but then again to have any benefit people would have to be willing to abandon their Loudoun County cul-de-sacs in favor of townhomes, condos, and apartments, and I don't foresee that happening anytime soon unless fuel prices spike up to $5/gallon, which probably also won't happen with a horrid economy with a greater than 10% national unemployment rate.

    I just don't foresee any way to "fix" the transportation crisis here, and when you have people willing to further tax themselves at the polls to improve some of the nation's already best public schools but, simultaneously, arguing AGAINST mass transit initiatives such as the Silver Line in a region with one of the nation's WORST transportation systems, then how are we ever going to make any progress? Can NoVA really handle a million more new residents in its current design?

  7. BiCO:

    "Can NoVA really handle a million more new residents in its current design?"

    No, it can't. And even with smart growth, let's be honest and admit that we are still going to be a primarily car-dependent region for the foreseeable future. This is why I shake my head in disbelief with every proposal supported by Hudgins and her ilk to build more high-density developments that will cram more and more people into Reston, as though Metro's Silver Line is going to be the panacea that will magically cure congestion, decrease traffic, and offset population growth. Every area has a finite carrying capacity, and maybe Fairfax County is near or at that limit. As the Dutch say about their country and why they want to limit immigration, "Full up!".

  8. BiCO,

    It's a complicated problem, and I'm not sure what the solution is. I don't think you can say that it's entirely because of people wanting to live in big houses out in loudoun, though... that's all fairly recent development, and the traffic sucked before those houses were there.

    I think it's going to take a multi-faceted approach- perhaps allowing businesses some kind of tax break for allowing telecommuting? I don't know. I get frustrated when I hear people saying that "people should just live near their workplace," however, because it is seldom that simple. A large segment of commuters is made up of two-income couples, and it is rare indeed to be able to live near BOTH workplaces. And, of course, if you have a family where members work in some of the more expensive areas (mclean, arlington, bethesda, etc) it is just not feasable, since even townhomes are not even close to being affordable in those areas.

    At any rate, I doubt this problem will be solved in my lifetime (and I'm 32!).

  9. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO)November 6, 2009 at 3:04 PM

    Anonymous @ 12:36: Whether or not Northern Virginia CAN handle an additional million residents is irrelevant to the fact that it IS going to happen. The national unemployment rate is now over 10% while firms and agencies here are still hiring left and right. As long as NoVA is where the jobs are you will still have a massive influx into our region.

    Increasing density will not necessarily lead to more congestion. Manhattan, for example, has nearly three million people within the confines of a small island, and traffic congestion on its streets is no worse than many parts of NoVA at rush-hour. Why? Having so many people living so near to one another makes it easier to plan for an efficient mass transit system to get those teeming masses around without a car. Arlington has increased its population by over 20,000 residents since 2000, but traffic congestion has not seemed to considerably worsen in Arlington since then.

    Since we can't just put up a wall around Fairfax County we're going to have to stick all of these newcomers SOMEWHERE. In my eyes it would be better to stick them in the least amount of land area possible. If you stick everyone out further and further into the boonies with new low-density housing developments you're just going to breed an area that is 100% car-dependent, which will only worsen our traffic woes in the coming years.

    It took me over two hours to get from Reston to Glover Park in NW DC last night. Along the way I saw NUMEROUS people making U-turns and just giving up. I wonder how many business bottom lines are hurt everyday because of people who just decide it's not worth the hassle to drive in all of that traffic to get to their location. I was going to visit a friend's home, but if it had been a social outing at a restaurant, for example, I just would have called an hour into my effort and canceled, keeping my dollars in my pocket. There are economic consequences as well to our infrastructural woes, as you can see.

  10. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO)November 6, 2009 at 3:19 PM

    Anonymous @ 12:37: As someone who was transferred from Herndon to McLean (and potentially out to Dulles in a few weeks) in the six months I've been working here in Virginia I can definitely relate to how it is not always possible to live within a short commute of work. However, that still doesn't explain why major employers here are so decentralized. We don't have just "one" specific employment core---we have many. While the bulk of people work in The District, McLean, Bethesda, Rockville, Arlington, or Reston/Herndon, there are still many other "sub"-employment cores as well. When you take a population that is sprawling and low-density to begin with and try to get them to access other points that are sprawling and low-density you've created the mess we now call Northern Virginia.

    The problem we have is that Metrorail lines all use the District as their core---similar to the spokes of a wheel---when DC is no longer the primary "hub." What might be helpful would be to start some lines running perpendicular to those spokes, for example, a new line would be joining the red line in Bethesda to the Silver Line in Reston (and eventually further east to parallel Maryland's new ICC and further south to meet up with the Orange Line at Fairfax). We could call this the "Pink Line." This would sort of be like an "Outer Beltway" just for mass transit. Naturally we'd have to tunnel it through Great Falls, lest those folks throw a hissy-fit, but that's one option to ease I-495 congestion across the Potomac. I also think the Orange Line needs to be extended to Centreville (potentially even to Gainesville someday), and the Silver Line should eventually extend out to Leesburg instead of Ashburn.

    Also, since even some people in the District still own vehicles you're correct it's not "all" the fault of the McMansion-dwellers in Loudoun County, but let's be honest. 100% of the people (now numbering well over 300,000 and growing each day) living in Loudoun County NEED to drive, and present development patterns aren't making that any less of a pressing issue.

    Also, as per a recent article in the Washington Post, a rapidly increasing number of households in Northern Virginia are home to singles, and yet ALL decent housing options in our area that are in transit-oriented areas are priced towards dual-income households. For folks like me who are single (and probably will be forever) and who will be earning a sub-$90k salary for most of life, I fail to see how I will EVER be able to comfortably afford to live in a transit-accessible area unless I give up and get a roomie when I'm 40 (and who still wants roomies when they're that old?) Reducing one's dependence upon the automobile shouldn't be something reserved merely for the affluent, but that's sadly what has been created in most major metropolitan areas in this country.


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