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Friday, December 9, 2022
FairfaxTransportationPedestrian/bicyclist bridge heralds new mobility option in Tysons

Pedestrian/bicyclist bridge heralds new mobility option in Tysons

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Pedestrians and bicyclists traveling between Old Meadow Road in western McLean and Tysons Corner Center now have a safe way to cross Interstate 495.

Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) officials, along with local and federal leaders, cut the ribbon Nov. 9 to dedicate the recently completed pedestrian-and-bicycle bridge, which is located along the Beltway between Routes 7 and 123. The bridge opened to the public Oct. 21.

Construction on Phase 1 of the project began in August 2021. The $13.4 million overall cost – financed with local, state and federal funding – included $2.3 million for preliminary engineering, $3.1 million for right-of-way acquisition and utility relocation, and $8 million for construction.
Kimley-Horn did engineering work for the project’s first phase and Shirley Contracting Co. LLC was the lead builder.

Phase 1 of the project stretches from Tysons One Place and Fashion Boulevard to Old Meadow Road and Provincial Drive via the bridge and a 10-foot-wide shared-use path.

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Those transiting the Tysons bridge for the first time, especially after watching its construction from below on the Beltway during the past 14 months, might be surprised at how short the span is. The lead-up pathway in McLean is much longer, pretty steep and features some sharp turns.

The bridge feels rock-solid and has inward curving, finely woven chain-link fencing on both sides to prevent objects and people from falling onto the highway below.

Bill Cutler, VDOT’s Northern Virginia District construction engineer, congratulated the project team for building the bridge over a highway transited by about 150,000 vehicles daily. Cutler singled out in the crowd a VDOT employee who had biked to the dedication, and noted it would have taken him an equally long time to drive there.

“That tells you that giving people more choices really can make a difference to our transportation network,” Cutler said.

The bridge links high-density residential areas in McLean – including Encore and Regency Club condominiums and Dolley Madison Apartments – with Tysons, Virginia’s biggest economic engine, Cutler said. Some local residents thanked construction workers during the project – something that does not always happen with VDOT initiatives, he added.

The federal government provided $8 million for the project, said U.S. Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-11th). The bridge is part of an effort by area leaders to create mobility choices to keep residents safer, enhance economic activity, and improve quality of life and the environment.

“Fairfax, when it was developed, was developed as a shrine to the automobile,” Connolly said. “We didn’t need sidewalks. Who needs sidewalks? We didn’t have connections to retail or commercial centers. We didn’t have connections, other than the automobile, to recreational facilities. As a result, what we face now is retrofitting infrastructure, which is very expensive.”

Supervisor Dalia Palchik (D-Providence) said she had been counting down the days for the bridge’s completion and was “thrilled” to have it open to the public.

“It is rare to find a more pleasant walk here, in all of Fairfax,” she said. “You have a beautiful view. You have apartments, all kinds of multi-family housing and all kinds of businesses that will now be able to access both sides of the bridge.”

The bridge project – as well as the upcoming dedication of Phase 2 of Metrorail’s Silver Line – exemplify improvements Fairfax County officials wish to see happen, said Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay (D). The pedestrian bridge surmounts a hug obstacle and allows two separated communities to work together toward the county’s economic success, he said.

“Projects like this, massive pedestrian infrastructure, prove that when we put our minds to things here, we can still do big things to support our community, to support our economy, to build better communities everywhere in Fairfax County,” McKay said. “This connection is so critical to the multi-modal goals that we have for Tysons long-term.”

The bridge also helps the environment by giving people an alternative to driving, he said.

“We know that this is an investment, not an expense, in the long-term success of Tysons and our residents,” McKay said.

The project’s second phase, the final design and construction of which will occur as additional funding becomes available, will extend the new shared-use path by a half-mile along Old Meadow Road between Provincial Drive and Route 123.

This new Virginia Department of Transportation bridge over the Capital Beltway allows pedestrians and cyclists to cross safely between western McLean neighborhoods and Tysons Corner. (Photo by Brian Trompeter)
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