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Tysons tax revenues help fully fund design of Route 7 widening

Route 7 seen from Route 123 in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County has secured all the funding it needs to design a future widening of Route 7 from Route 123 to I-495 in Tysons.

The Tysons Transportation Service District Advisory Board approved allocating up to $7.8 million from the district’s tax revenues to the Route 7 project last month, a move recommended by Fairfax County Department of Transportation staff.

The vote during the March 22 meeting was almost unanimous, but one member of the board said they couldn’t support putting more money to widening a road.

The project design is also expected to receive $2 million from the Tysons-wide Road Funds, which is supported by developer fees.

“That will fully fund design,” FCDOT planner Christina Cain told the board, which advises the county on the district’s annual tax rate and transportation projects funded by the resulting revenue.

Separate from the Route 7 widening under construction to the north, the planned widening from Route 123 to the Capital Beltway will replace the roadway’s existing median with two new lanes to accommodate future bus rapid transit service between Tysons and Alexandria.

Since the new lanes are envisioned as transit-only, Route 7 has to be widened to preserve six lanes for general traffic. The project will also alter the interchange with Route 123, though an evaluation of two possible concepts is temporarily on hold, according to FCDOT’s presentation.

Staff are looking at making upgrades to pedestrian crossings throughout the roughly 1-mile stretch of road, particularly at International Drive, according to Fairfax County Director of Transportation Tom Biesiadny.

“Today, [the crossings] are pretty minimal,” he said. “…What doesn’t exist today are median refuges so that people will be able to cross halfway if they’re not able to make it all the way across. They’ll have a safe way to wait.”

The county is also studying potential safety, operational, and bicycle and pedestrian improvements that could be made in conjunction with the widening and BRT service.

Even before the advisory board’s Route 7 vote, more than half of the $62 million in tax revenue and interest collected by the Tysons Transportation Service District since it was created in 2013 had been allocated to various transportation projects.

As of March 1, about $31.3 million had been allocated, leaving $30.4 million available for projects currently in their preliminary design or engineering phases.

The taxes are generated by residential and commercial properties in the district based on assessed property values.

Property values in Tysons have exceeded the 3% growth projected by the county every year except for fiscal years 2021, when there was a 4.4% decline, and 2022, which saw a 2.3% rise, according to FCDOT.

Because of the faster-than-anticipated growth, the advisory board supported staff’s recommendation to keep the tax rate at 5 cents per $100 of assessed value. The rate needs to be approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors as part of the budget for fiscal year 2023, which begins July 1.

“Ultimately, that [growth] probably means that the service district will terminate sooner than we projected, or at some point in the future, the rate can go down at the tail end,” Biesiadny said.

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