With the construction of the greatly needed and anticipated Jones Branch Connector begun, it may seem like an odd time to conceptualize another crossing of 495. However, big projects take a lot of forethought and consideration, and although another crossing may not be necessary in the next few years, eventually further connection improvements to Tysons East will be needed.
We’ve previously discussed the Jones Branch Connector, a critical traffic improvement to Tysons. We’ve noted some elements of the project which may keep pedestrians and cyclists away. In fairness to the plans, the crossing is a difficult one, not just at the regular very wide 495 road section, but also where the HOT lanes have individual ramps for connection, making it extra long. If adequate facilities and consideration for pedestrians and others is provided, the project could still be a big deal for walkability.
A recent study by Wells & Associates shows just how bad walkability is between these two very geographically close regions of Tysons. To get from Tysons Corner Station to McLean station legally (ie on a provided sidewalk) would require 63 minutes (going all the way into the Great Falls / McLean border). Keep in mind they are separated by less than a mile. So even the bare accommodation and some climate consideration would likely encourage more on foot traffic.
In five years, after the Jones Branch Connector has been in place, there will likely be some further desire to connect to all the new projects popping up at Tysons East, like plans for the future Wegmans. Crossing 495 at a short segment in the future will further interweave the needed road grid, and make it easier for pedestrians to get around. This could be timed and phased at the same time as redevelopment plans at what will be the over 40 year old Hilton Hotel.
The company by that time may be interested in developing the currently almost always empty back parking lot with structural parking and possible redevelopment instead. A 1/2 mile distance to metro would be the result of a new short road crossing to Dolley Madison Boulevard, therefore the allowable density of the parcel would allow for nearly 1 million square feet of additional space. Residential is not likely to be the most appropriate use for such a location (close to 495), but by that time the office market could very well need more office space. Given the proximity to Capital One’s headquarters there could be many collaborating industries seeking close co-location to a major financial. Keep in mind the tech venture capital market in Tysons and the DC area as a whole has been rising as fast as any other industry in the region.
It’s easy to build and forget to plan for the future, but Tysons needs more than just one project to solve the lack of road grid. This particular location would have plenty of constraints to consider as well, including the on and off-ramps to 495 along Dolley Madison, and how to make these functional while still making a crossing friendly to non-vehicles. Thinking about these issues early will guide a common vision of how to use market forces and private interest to logically layout future public infrastructure.