Plans to create a bus-rapid-transit, or BRT, line using Route 7 to connect Tysons to Alexandria continue to move forward, with the next installment to hire a consultant that will guide the next phases of the project.
The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and Fairfax County government will split the estimated $50,000 cost of the “strategic implementation roadmap,” which is expected to take four to six months to complete.
That would be the latest step in an effort to bring a 21st-century public-transit experience to the traveling public, one that, by the time construction gets rolling, could cost upwards of a half-billion dollars to complete. (For information on the effort, see the Website at https://novatransit.org/programs/route7/.)
The Route 7 corridor already represents the second largest bus route in Northern Virginia. Planners aim to bring BRT to the corridor around the year 2030, running from the Spring Hill Metro station east through West Falls Church, East Falls Church, Seven Corners and Skyline (mostly along Route 7) before jogging southwest and terminating at Mark Center in Alexandria. The entire project length is about 10.5 miles.
In addition to serving a number of Metro stations, the project also would include development of specialized transit stops for buses along the route and, as much as possible, use dedicated lanes along the roadway.
The proposal has been in the planning stage since 2013. The current projected cost, based on 2030 dollars and attempting to factor in labor costs and contingencies from nearly a decade out, has been presented in a range from $448 million to $507 million. Annual operating costs would run about $18 million, and like nearly all transit services the nation, would need to be subsidized in order to make ends meet.
Initially, planners considered a light-rail system for the corridor, but abandoned that idea because of cost concerns – the same issue that in 2014 sank the proposed 5-mile, $350 million Columbia Pike streetcar system, which in theory could have connected to the proposed Route 7 transit network at Skyline.
Adding dedicated travel lanes for buses has gained momentum across the region in recent years as a less costly alternative to fixed-rail transit projects.
An example: Regional leaders on May 9 are slated to host a ground-breaking ceremony for extension of the Transitway network to Pentagon City.
A collaborative effort of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and Arlington County government, the project is the first of three planned segments to add dedicated transit lanes and associated transit stations to accommodate growth in the Pentagon City and Crystal City areas, as well as improve transit connectivity to the Columbia Pike corridor and Metrorail system.