A high-level pow wow of City of Falls Church department heads, business leaders, developers and downtown residents is slated for the City Hall’s Training Center Tuesday afternoon in a meeting that promises to be “interesting.” The subject is the City’s plans to reduce the number of lanes on Route 7 (Broad St.) in its downtown area to a single lane in each direction from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for an eight-week period beginning this month. So far, City officials have refused to consider doing the work at night because, according to City Manager Wyatt Shields, of the inconvenience it will create for a handful of residents whose homes face onto or are nearby block between Virginia and Pennsylvania Avenues.
However, because Rt. 7 is a major corridor feeding Tysons Corner, one of the largest “downtowns” in the U.S., traffic is between 40,000 to 60,000 cars a day. Business owners in the directly affected area face paralysis, and the City’s residential neighborhoods could face deteriorating safety conditions as frustrated drivers seek relief on side roads. Regional business and commercial activity, overall, would suffer the loss of countless thousands of man hours of employees and customers trapped in traffic. Shields said he’s calling the meeting in hopes of averting a decision by the Virginia Department of Transportation for a full public hearing on the plan. VDOT officials, who are not involved in decisions on the timing of the project, said they would comply with the wishes of interested parties to call for such a hearing if requested, and the board of directors of the Greater Falls Church Chamber of Commerce voted unanimously last month to request such a hearing. Shields said he’s concerned a hearing, if it is scheduled, would postpone the project until September, when traffic flows will be even higher than during July and August.