Fifteen neighborhood associations in the Tysons Corner area are working together to convince Fairfax County not to build a new highway ramp that would cut into a stream valley.
Calling itself Save Tysons Last Forest, the coalition members have been lobbying officials and collecting petition signatures to oppose the road.
County transportation staff have been evaluating the ramp option as a way to alleviate traffic as Tysons continues to grow. The plans for Tysons adopted in 2010 included a new street grid with three potential new connections to the Dulles Toll Road.
One of the three, west of Va. 7, commonly is referred to as the Boone Boulevard extension. It could go through a stream valley park to connect the new road to the Dulles Toll Road, or there could be ramps snaking around the existing Sheraton hotel.
Department of Transportation Director Tom Biesiadny said the county is doing a high-level analysis of the Boone Boulevard extension and the two other possible ramp connections, looking at transportation benefits, as well as potential environmental and other effects.
“It’s a very high-level feasibility study,” he said. The ramps, if they are ever built, are not expected to be completed for decades.
The community group Save Tysons Last Forest is making several arguments against the possible extension, and hoping to get the option removed from consideration.
“It’s amazing how quickly the community came together,” said Pam Konde, president of the Greater Tysons Green Civic Association, which has about 350 members. “Now, everyone is sort of playing the role of the Lorax.”
The Old Courthouse Spring Branch property is owned by the Fairfax County Park Authority. The group thinks the land has several layers of legal protection, starting with covenants on the deeds from when the prior landowners granted the land to the county, which state the land is to remain as parkland. In addition, it has a “resource protection area” designation, which is designed to protect water quality by limiting development in flood plains and stream valleys.
In addition, the county’s comprehensive plan for Tysons also has language about protecting stream valley parks.
The forested area also serves as an important buffer between the commercial part of Tysons and the residential area, said Konde and Dean Mason, a resident of the Ashgrove Estates community who is active in the Save Tysons Forest area.
“There is precious little green space that is remaining,” Mason said. “That buffer is going to become that much more important as the commercial sections of Tysons become more developed.”
The route that would have the most impact on the stream valley is not the only option. Therefore, Mason and Konde said they have a hard time understanding why the county is considering damaging land that it has designated for preservation.
“We are saying, take it off the table right now,” Konde said. “It seems like an absolute waste of county time and money if they don’t believe it’s a viable option.”
Biesiadny said the county understands why the neighbors want to protect the land, and the community input has been valuable to the evaluation process. The county likely will have a new set of public meetings this fall to update residents on the study, he said.
Ultimately, the Board of Supervisors will decide which of the ramp options, if any, to put into county transportation plans.
“Even after the board makes a decision, then we have to get into the formal environmental review process,” Biesiadny said.