County proposes initial Route 7 BRT stations in Tysons, from Spring Hill to West Falls Church

The proposed route and stations for the Route 7 bus rapid transit system in Tysons (via FCDOT)

Plans for a Route 7 bus rapid transit (BRT) system in Tysons are starting to take more concrete shape, outpacing an ongoing study of the corridor further to the south.

The service will initially launch in Tysons, operating between the Spring Hill and West Falls Church Metro stations, before later expanding into Falls Church and Alexandria, Fairfax County Department of Transportation staff told planning commission members at a May 11 committee meeting.

“Since the northern portion is kind of on a fast track, we would make this the first phase to see how it works,” Sean Schweitzer, a senior transportation planner for FCDOT, said. “It would work in the interim as a closed system until the rest can catch up.”

During the interim phase, the BRT will have nine stops, according to a comprehensive plan amendment proposed by county staff:

  • The West Falls Church Metro station
  • Westbound Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) at Chestnut Street
  • Patterson Road, near the Tysons Station and Idylwood Plaza shopping cneters
  • George C. Marshall Drive
  • Fashion Blvd, serving Tysons Corner Center
  • International Drive and Fletcher Street
  • International and Greensboro Drive, next to Tysons Galleria
  • International and Lincoln Circle
  • Spring Hill Metro station

In the future, the Fletcher Street station could serve as a transfer point for an “enhanced” Gallows Road transit system, Schweitzer said. A study of that corridor down to Annandale is only just gearing up.

The route follows the preferred alignment along International Drive that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved in 2021. The West Falls Church Metro was chosen as an interim southern terminus so buses can turn around, but the county hasn’t ruled out the possibility of making it a permanent station.

“If [the BRT is] better served by going directly to the Metro station, where it can pick up more passengers versus staying on Route 7, we could make that adjustment and have that be the ultimate alignment,” Fairfax County Transportation Planning Chief Mike Garcia said.

Except for the Metro stations, each stop will have separate platforms for east and westbound travel, staggered to reduce right-of-way needs, according to county staff.

The buses will mostly utilize dedicated median lanes, but they have to join other traffic at the Metro stations and to make the left turn from International Drive to Spring Hill Road. Spring Hill and Tyco roads will have “Business Access and Transit” (BAT) lanes limited to buses and drivers turning into the commercial area east of the Spring Hill Metro station.

To accommodate the BRT, FCDOT is proposing:

  • Two dedicated BRT lanes from Haycock Road to the Capital Beltway (I-495), where the Tysons Comprehensive Plan already recommends widening Route 7 from four to six lanes
  • Two dedicated lanes from the Beltway to International Drive, where Route 7 is slated to expand from six to eight lanes
  • Repurposing of two travel lanes on International Drive to Lincoln Circle for the BRT

The proposed BRT plan will be presented to the community next week during virtual meetings at noon on June 7 and 6:30 p.m. on June 8.

However, some details of the project won’t be available yet, including what pedestrian and bicycle improvements will be provided, to the disappointment of some planning commissioners.

“I just think that’s really important to the success of Tysons, to this 30% modal shift we’re trying to get people to get out of their cars,” Braddock District Commissioner Mary Cortina said.

According to Schweitzer, FCDOT is currently developing plans for bicycle and pedestrian facilities as part of the study’s next phase, which will also look more closely at the right-of-way impacts, station platform configurations, and possible intersection improvements.

“We started last fall, and we are planning to complete that effort by next spring,” he said, explaining that the county needs to amend the comprehensive plan now so it can pursue funding for the project.

The plan amendment is scheduled to go to the planning commission for a public hearing on June 21, followed by a Board of Supervisors hearing on July 25.

Designed to operate more quickly than a local bus route, the Route 7 BRT will run from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. on weekdays and from 6 a.m. to midnight on weekends. Buses are expected to arrive at each station every 10 minutes during peak hours and every 15 minutes during off-peak hours, according to a report released in summer 2021.

Since the BRT will cross multiple jurisdictions, a study of the overall Route 7 corridor is being conducted by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, whose attention is currently focused on the Falls Church area. Service will ultimately extend to the Mark Center in Alexandria.