On May 20th, Fairfax County finally opened the pedestrian overpass at Seven Corners.

According to officials at the ribbon cutting, the original discussions for the overpass began 25 years ago. “All in,” including engineering, design, and other costs, the bridge cost $8 million. (In the original post, I reported a price tag of $2.6 million.

The bridge still needs some pedestrian improvements, such as the paths from the bridge to the stores. At left is the sidewalk leading away from the stairs; at right is the sidewalk from the ramp. Both just end abruptly with the Starbucks and B&N beckoning across the lot.

Despite the fact that this area is quite unfriendly to pedestrians, it actually gets a lot of pedestrian use.  Here are the statistics I gathered on two different dates, Thursday, May 21 from 10:05 to 11:05 AM and Tuesday, June 16 from 1:30 to 2:30 PM.  Both days were excellent weather with temperatures in the 70s.

See the end of the post for some caveats about these statistics.

In both cases there were more users at the Patrick Henry crossing than on the bridge itself, underscoring the continuing need to make that intersection safe and pleasant for pedestrians.  I was surprised that no cyclists used the bridge.  Perhaps they simply aren’t yet aware of the new option. 

According to the Pedestrian Program Manager, county also plans to add signals and crosswalks at Seven Corners itself, which would be a definite improvement to the worn footpaths and crossing-fingers-that-the-light-is-red situation that exists there now.

The people who made the “Mad Dash” across Route 50 did so in three locations: 6 of them crossed between the bridge and Seven Corners; 2 crossed between the bridge and Patrick Henry and 2 crossed 50 yards or so east of Patrick Henry.

The bridge will, of course, require maintenance, and hopefully the county has budgeted for that.  Already the bridge has become a magnet for graffiti. There was already at least one overflowing trash receptacle.  Over time, if the county lets the facility become run down, many people will choose not to use it any more.  After only a month, this one seems to already be neglected.

Caveats on table data: Data was gathered while sitting on the bridge. Accuracy as follows:

  • Bridge users: 100% accurate
  • PH Drive: Likely undercounted by 10-20% due to distance and sight line.  Better data on second date due to learning curve.
  • Seven Corners: Likely undercounted by a lot due to sightline and inability to see parts of the crossing area
  • Mad Dash: 100% accurate; no way anyone could cross without being seen.

Steve Offutt has been working at the confluence of business and environment for almost 20 years, with experience in climate change solutions, green building, business-government partnerships, transportation demand management, and more. He lives in Arlington with his wife and two children and is a cyclist, pedestrian, transit rider and driver.