It will likely be the decision of Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields to commence a two-month construction project next month that will close Route 7 to a single lane each way from before the morning rush hour until late in the afternoon. Based on a noisy public meeting at City Hall last week, plans to keep the road blocked through the evening rush hour have apparently been revised.
This will be for the undergrounding of utility lines, reconstructing the road bed, and building “streetscape” sidewalk amenities along a lengthy one-block stretch of Route 7 (also known as West Broad Street) between Virginia Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue. The work is slated for daytime hours because there are a handful of residences that face onto the street there and who would suffer from noise and light at night.
But their inconvenience, which could be allayed by ear plugs and shades, is contrasted to the traffic snarl that will be created by having the 45,000 cars that pass along that block each day be slowed to accommodate a single lanes each way. This daily jam is going to have a major impact on the quality of life of every single Falls Church citizen, much less on the passengers in those 45,000 cars every day.
City officials have to come to grips with the reality that has been created for Falls Church by the burgeoning growth of Tysons Corner. That mega-development has grown to become one of the largest “downtown” centers of commerce and office space in the entire U.S. Yet it is still served by a handful of pitifully inadequate traffic arteries. Route 7 is among them, and one of the most important.
Slowing traffic along Route 7 to trips that last an hour instead of three minutes will have profound consequences not only for everyone in Falls Church, but for Tysons Corner, as well. There is not only lost commerce, there is lost human productivity. How much of that lost time will be lost revenue for the commerce in that area? People with important jobs sitting paralyzed in traffic every day will be forced to squander valuable hours of creativity and productivity by the situation.
But all these arguments are falling on deaf ears right now, and can only be put into the “I told you so” bin for reference at a later date. Only when it becomes clear what a nightmare this situation has created will we, at least, be on record warning our readers ahead of time.
We suggest that this may not be the right time to undertake what is effectively a cosmetic project of this nature. Unsightly as power lines on poles may be, we’ve lived with them for long enough that waiting a little longer won’t kill us. The project should be delayed until the City works out the means to divert traffic over to Park Avenue, thus making Route 7 two lanes one way and Park Avenue two lanes the other way.
That way the commerce of the region continues apace, Falls Church is not one big parking lot, and everyone gets a good night’s sleep.