F.C. Officials Mull ‘Ring Road’ Impact for Economic Growth

Buoyed by “revised mapping” of a proposed “ring road” around the Seven Corners bottleneck at the intersection of Rt. 50 and Rt. 7, a revision that relocates the road completely outside the Falls Church City limits, F.C. officials are now anticipating Fairfax County officials coming to F.C. City Hall to present a thorough briefing on the overall plan for the renovation of Seven Corners on Sept. 15.

Additionally, a flurry of one-on-one meetings involving F.C. Mayor David Tarter and Fairfax’s Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross, and City and county officials at other levels, presents a clear picture that the county is “trying very hard” to be open and to embrace the City in its planning, Assistant F.C. City Manager Cindy Mester told a work session of the F.C. Council Tuesday night.

It is virtually unheard of, she noted, for the county to come to an outside jurisdiction with its plans prior to having those plans vetted by the county’s own Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, she noted.

(Last week, Supervisor Gross and John Thillmann, chair of the county’s Seven Corners Task Force, came to Falls Church to meet for an hour with the News-Press, unveiling the “revised mapping” of the “ring road” plan for the first time then.)

But this Tuesday’s Council discussion made it clear that the City is concerned not only for the “ring road” and whatever responsibilities might burden the City if the county goes ahead with it, but for the more important concern for the future of light rail up Route 7, and issues of access by that to the East Falls Church Metro station, or not.

Vice Mayor David Snyder, who is the City’s point person on all issues concerning regional transportation, called for the Council to revisit the Route 7 Transit Study completed a few years back. The issues presented in that report included East Falls Church Metro access, and the pluses and minuses of deviating the path of light rail on Rt. 7 to achieve that access.

If the “ring road” from Seven Corners is designed to make access to the East Falls Church Metro station by way of Roosevelt Blvd. a much more direct route for light rail on Rt. 7, then F.C. would lose the benefit of having the light rail coming straight through the City on Rt. 7, resulting in fewer stops in the City and the bypass of commercial and retail areas.

However, others argue that the route of the rail deviating off Rt. 7 at Seven Corners, taking the “ring road” to Roosevelt Blvd. and then down to the East Falls Church Metro, would result in more, not less, access of the rail to points in the City.

That’s because, coming out of the Metro station, it would come up to Washington St. (Route 29) and come down that to hook back up with Rt. 7 right in the center of the City. Comparatively, the amount of retail, current and planned, on N. Washington St., is far greater than on the stretch of Rt. 7 between Seven Corners and N. Washington St.

Still, from the standpoint of City of Falls Church officials, these issues trump the “ring road” notion, per se, and other aspects of the Seven Corners renovation.

In all the talk about the “ring road” and pricey incursions onto F.C. soil this summer, “We may have gotten a little ahead of ourselves,” said F.C. Mayor David Tarter, who said he hoped his meeting with Supervisor Gross and others like it will calm everyone down.

Jim Snyder, the City’s Planning Director, said the focus going forward should be on ways to make the whole thing a “win-win” for Falls Church and the county. “Seven Corners is an economic development asset for Falls Church,” he said, and “getting rid of Rt. 50 as a barrier separating the City from Seven Corners, which the ‘ring road’ is designed to accomplish, will be a major economic driver.”

“One thing is for sure,” Mester said, “F.C. representation has to be there in all those meetings in order for us not to be overlooked in whatever is planned.”

The Sept. 15 presentation will be at a City Council Work Session at F.C. City Hall at 7 p.m. Representatives of all the City’s boards and commissions have been invited.

Correction: The project will be presented to the Council Work Session on September 15, not the Planning Commission.