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Northern Virginia Eyes Light Rail Or Major Bus System For Rt. 7 Corridor

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The Envision Route 7 project images a future with a reinvigorated multimodel transportation corridor.
The Envision Route 7 project images a future with a reinvigorated multimodel transportation corridor.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission is studying whether to build a light rail or bus rapid transit system on a 14-mile stretch of Rt. 7 from Tysons Corner to Alexandria, one of the busiest in terms of traffic and development in the region

“We are looking at how much it would cost. We are looking at how many riders there would be. We are looking at how much time people might save in their travels, and how much more reliable we can make travel on Route 7,” said Kelly Coyner, the NVTC’s executive director.

A third public meeting will be held Wednesday, Nov. 18, in Falls Church.

In a video presentation posted at the commission’s website, a bus or light rail line promises to move people in “half the time it takes now” along the congested corridor.

“More and more people will need to travel Route 7 as the number of new jobs and residents is projected to grow by more than a third over the next 25 years,” the video says. “The Tysons business district, which is booming today, is expected to transform into a city the size of present day Seattle or Houston by 2040.”

Northern Virginia has seen a number of major transportation projects in recent years that have moved away from the old practice of simple expanding existing highways with free lanes to cope with traffic congestion. Since late 2012 the following projects have been completed: the Express Lanes on I-495 and I-95, the Silver Line Metrorail to Tysons Corner and Reston, and express Metrobus service between Crystal City and Potomac Yard.

On I-66, Virginia is preparing to build express toll lanes from D.C. to Haymarket. Tolls on the inside-the-Beltway portion of the corridor will be charged starting in 2017.

“The good news is there has been a lot of good planning with respect to Rt. 7 particularly as it connects to Tysons,” said Coyner. “We will be able to put this new form of transit in a dedicated lane in most places along the corridor. What our studies are showing is whether you go with bus rapid transit or light rail, you will be able to cut travel times in half.”

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