Local Commentary

Editorial: The Traffic Congestion Factor

The last week was a real blockbuster from the standpoint of the long-term fiscal viability of Virginia’s fastest-growing jurisdiction – namely, our very own City of Falls Church. Two new eye-popping, large scale projects for the tiny jurisdiction’s commercially-zoned areas were unveiled, both reported on the front page of this edition.

Large scale commercial and mixed-use developments tend to arrive this way, in a kind of snowballing manner. An area that becomes the “flavor of the week” for builders can suddenly enjoy terrific popularity. Fortunately for the City of Falls Church, which can use every dime such projects might bring, the preconditions for welcoming such phenomena have been well laid. Suddenly discovered as the latest darling of the ball, lady Falls Church is properly groomed and foofed up to handle the attention.

These latest two projects – the revival of Atlantic Realty’s ambitions for the 100 block of W. Broad and the Spectrum group’s one for the 900 block of W. Broad – will get a lot of scrutiny before any approvals, and a lot of angst will be expressed over the impact of these, on top of the just-approved Rushmark project in the 300 block of W. Broad and the Lincoln Properties one on S. Maple, on traffic and general congestion.

It always bears reminding our residents that growing traffic congestion on our main thoroughfares, Routes 7 (W. Broad) and 29 in particular, is the result of growth occurring throughout the region, and not only what’s happening inside Falls Church. The Mosaic project in Merrifield is drawing a lot of traffic through Falls Church coming down Route 29 off Interstate 66, and as the boom in Tysons Corner accompanies the completion of the four new Metro station stops now under construction, the pressure on Route 7 will increase far more than from a few new projects in Falls Church, proper.

What we don’t see, but should, is a lot of political pressure arising out of Falls Church toward alleviating traffic congestion through the widening of either Routes 7 or 29. A light rail solution is a long way off, and in the current configuration would make things worse before better in F.C., proper. That’s because of how narrow and unyielding Route 7 is, caused in part by the amazingly short-sighted decision 10 years ago to allow two new projects, the Broadway and the Byron, to locate so close to the road as to make any Route 7 widening plans virtually impossible.

It will take some very creative approaches to solve this issue, and given that VDOT officially owns both Routes 7 and 29, it will also have to be a primary player. The light rail plan that veers off Route 7 coming up from Bailey’s Crossroads to the East Falls Church Metro station, and out I-66, would preclude it from directly serving Falls Church, but could still alleviate traffic coming through Falls Church.