As the largest land owner in Tysons, VDOT is charged with helping move residents and commuters inside and outside of the city. All cities need varying levels of infrastructure, both small scale and at times mega-scale. 495 has long been a presence in Tysons, without which Tysons never would have come into existence.
But over the past two decades the ever-growing Beltway has become a greater obstacle to the future urban goals of Tysons. A common recurrence is the creation of remainder parcels with each modification that occurs to the Beltway. One such parcel exists at the future Jones Branch Connector.
When the 495 Express Lanes project was completed, it included an onramp bridge from Jones Branch to the express lanes, as well as a nearly 4.5 acre parcel which as to date has sat unused. With the announcement of the Jones Branch Connector, which uses part of the 495 Express Lanes bridge for its pathway of connecting North and East Tysons, the parcel is an opportunity to do more with less.
One issue that has been brought up previously with the Jones Branch Connector is the difficult terrain it spans for pedestrians, and its massive length, which may by function reduce use by any travel mode except vehicles. Using the existing 4.5 acre parcel may create either relief or a purpose, with the goal of creating a place which is a wayward point worth traveling to.
There are, of course, negatives of this parcel as well. The adjacency to the massive 495 infrastructure is certainly not great for air quality or acoustics. The topography of the parcel itself includes some severe slopes that would need to be avoided (along the boundaries). It lacks any natural or existing aesthetic qualities. However, 4.5 acres is a lot of land, and you would be surprised how well proper plantings and design could isolate even smaller parcels from the surrounding concrete jungle around it.
In my opinion this parcel could focus on the following goals:
- Primarily focus on pedestrian and bicycle users
- Improve air and noise quality
- Provide a benefit to those traversing between north and east Tysons, as well as being a destination of its own
Certainly Tysons needs more public oriented spaces; dog parks are lacking, quiet forest lands are always a benefit, maybe you think Tysons just needs a place to have a picnic? Or perhaps activating this parcel as a private development makes more sense?
What do you think?