Last week’s pair of posts discussing the Silver Line and a high-speed link to Dulles posed ideas about triple tracking the Silver Line or creating a new line along the W&OD trail.

While we’re looking at the Silver Line and transit in Fairfax, there is another opportunity that planners are missing: Route 7 through Falls Church and Fairfax County. Imagine if planners in Fairfax took the long view like Arlington did thirty years ago and created the incentives and plans that would transform this road like the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor in Arlington has been transformed. 

Imagine a line continuing south from the Silver Line to an intersection with Orange at West Falls Church, and continuing southeast along Route 7 to King Street and all the way into Old Town Alexandria. Call it the Gold Line. Done right, it would be underground most or all of the way and would be accompanied by land-use policies that would re-create the entire corridor.

The Metro system could look something like this:

Click to enlarge.

A vision like this, could transform a large, already densely populated, but poorly planned and designed area of Fairfax County.  It would also connect the West Falls Church station with the King Street station, moving toward more of a web and less of a hub-and-spoke design for Metrorail, which is reflective of how our region has evolved.

Given how enormously expensive and controversial a project of this scope would be, and the obstacles that tend to stand in the way of expanding the heavy rail Metrorail system, we could also consider other modes for transit in this corridor.

Arlington and Fairfax Counties are working together on the Columbia Pike streetcar, which will cross Route 7 at Jefferson St. and terminate near Route 7 and Carlin Springs. Adding extensions to that project (which is hinted at in this map), would allow for a more incremental approach.  Extending the streetcar or creating a new streetcar line from the Columbia Pike streetcar line terminus near Bailey’s Crossroads west to Falls Church or east to Alexandria would create an impetus to improve land use and urban design along those sections, assuming smart and committed county leadership. 

Effectively designed light rail would also be easier extend in other directions, such as connections to Shirlington along Walter Reed Drive and Arlington Mill Road or via Quaker Lane. The line could also split from King Street with another line along Braddock Road to the Braddock Road Metro, then connecting north to Potomac Yards.  Arlington County has also been looking at the possibility of a Pentagon City to Potomac Yard streetcar, so these two could then tie together.  These kinds of additions and extensions would be much more difficult with a Metrorail type project.

This road, Route 7/Leesburg Pike, is not just a traffic disaster in Tyson’s Corner, but pretty much for its entire length east from there to Alexandria. It cannot be fixed with more or differently configured asphalt.  It requires a new and imaginative vision, one that takes advantage of and builds on the density that is already there.


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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.