This stretch of Route 7 will soon go from four lanes to six, with pedestrian paths on both sides.  Image by Google Maps used with permission.

Plans to widen Route 7 (also called Leesburg Pike) in Fairfax County between Tysons Corner and Reston also include new trails that would run on both sides of the road. There will also be a tunnel connecting park land that the road intersects.

Formally called the Route 7 Corridor Improvements Project, the plan applies to a seven-mile stretch from the Dulles Toll Road to Route 193. It should be finished in 2025. Virginia’s Department of Transportation (VDOT) is overseeing the project since Route 7 is a state road.

Image by Virginia Department of Transportation.

This stretch of Route 7 is part of a major commuter route from Tysons to Loudoun County. The current road has only limited sidewalks and shoulders. Tysons is a huge job center with all the transportation needs of a major downtown, and while there are several good transit corridors leading there (and Phase 2 of the Silver Line will be a welcome addition), this area isn’t a great candidate for more (it’s very low-density and quite wealthy, a bad formula for transit).

With the redevelopment of Merrifield, Tysons, and Reston, Fairfax County is starting to embrace walkability and multi-modal access. The transportation section of the 2013 Comprehensive Plan states that “it will be impossible to meet travel demand solely by roadways,” so, accordingly, the Connect Route 7 plan includes adding 10-foot wide paths on both sides of the road. In addition, the project will put more displaced left turns, crosswalks, and pedestrian countdown signals at intersections along this stretch.

A tunnel at a key intersection will connect trails and park land

In one section of the corridor, VDOT’s planners have decided that a tunnel under Route 7 would be safer than the current crosswalk. The underpass will reconnect the north and south areas of Colvin Run Mill Park, which Route 7 bisects.

The park land that the pedestrian tunnel will connect. Image by Virginia Department of Transportation.

The north side of Route 7 here has the Gerry Connolly Cross Country Trail as well as a parking lot shared with the actual Colvin Run Mill property that people looking to use the park space often use. In particular, the tunnel will be helpful for equestrians, as it will have a separate and taller lane for equestrian riders; it can be quite dangerous to cross at the intersection astride a horse or with one in tow!

To the south, the tunnel will mean easier access to Colvin Run Stream Valley (labeled as Colvin Run Mill Park on the VDOT project map), which has over 70 acres with three miles of trails known as Rails to River Trail.

This project is connected to other efforts to make Fairfax better for walking and biking

Related to the Route 7 project, another project is already underway to build (and widen) a new bridge carrying Route 7 over the Dulles Toll Road. The bridge will get a 14-foot path for people on foot and bike to travel in either direction. These multi-modal routes will connect Tysons to the edge of Reston to provide additional commuting and recreational options.

It is very exciting to see these changes in the works. While it make take decades, Fairfax County is working to connect the many pedestrian and bicycle-friendly areas, and, in some cases, create new shared paths. You can find the latest project updates here.

Kristy Cartier grew up in Vienna near Wolftrap and now resides in Herndon. She is on the board of Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park and has a master in agricultural economics. Kristy may market vehicle telematics, but she wants to see more walkable areas in Fairfax County.