Drivers, pedestrians, and other travelers can now move more easily between the eastern and western sides of Fairfax County’s Tysons area with the completion of a half-mile road and bridge project that connects Route 123 to Jones Branch Drive over the Capital Beltway.
The Jones Branch Connector spans four travel lanes, two in each direction, as well as one on-road bicycle lane in each direction and a lighted sidewalk on each side of the road, which has been named Scotts Crossing Road.
The facility also consists of a central, raised median intended to accommodate potential future transit and a clear sound wall along the road’s westbound side from Spring Gate Drive to the Interstate 495 Inner Loop to provide some protection to an adjacent residential neighborhood.
Open to drivers since December and pedestrians and bicyclists since February, the Jones Branch Connector is expected to carry more than 21,000 vehicles a day in 2020 and more than 32,000 by 2040, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.
“Any time we can put new transportation infrastructure in place is an exciting day in Fairfax County,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the project on Mar. 5. “As we know, transportation [is] really our number one challenge in the county, and every project has a difference in people’s quality of life and really makes a difference for commuters.”
Designed and developed by Fairfax County with VDOT overseeing construction, the Jones Branch Connector is the first area-wide project to be completed of the 17 projects approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 2010 as part of a Tysons Comprehensive Plan amendment.
In anticipation of the arrival of Metro’s Silver Line, Fairfax County leaders have been working to transform Tysons into an urban economic center since May 2005, when the Board of Supervisors formed a 36-member Tysons Land Use Task Force to update the comprehensive plan that had been in place since 1994.
The task force’s goal was to revise the plan to promote and better facilitate mixed-use, transit-oriented development, improve pedestrian access and mobility, expand the area’s residential mix, enhance functionality, and provide public spaces and other amenities, according to the Tysons Partnership, a nonprofit stakeholder organization dedicated to Tysons’ redevelopment.
The citizen-led task force spent three years working with local and state agencies and gathering public input before presenting its vision for the future of Tysons to the Board of Supervisors in September 2008.
The task force recommendations were sent to the Fairfax County Planning Commission, which convened a five-person committee that worked with county staff to draft a Comprehensive Plan amendment that was delivered to the Board of Supervisors in May 2010.
The board adopted the Tysons Comprehensive Plan amendment on June 22, 2010 along with 20 follow-on motions instructing staff on how to implement the new plan, including a directive to establish the Tysons Partnership by Oct. 15, 2010 before any development activities begin.
Serving as a template for the area through 2050, the Tysons Comprehensive Plan underwent a second amendment process starting in 2013 to reconcile it with studies and planning activities completed after 2010. The Board of Supervisors adopted the new amendment on Mar. 14, 2017.
Since the 2010 Comprehensive Plan amendment was put in place, Tysons has seen an explosion in growth and development fueled by the first phase of the Metro Silver Line, which opened four stations in Tysons and the Wiehle-Reston East station in July 2014.
Tysons now hosts more than 120,000 employees, over 30 million square feet of office space, five Fortune 500 company headquarters, and 9 million square feet of new development, including the Capital One Tower and more than 4,500 residential units built since 2012, according to a report released by the Tysons Partnership on Mar. 4 to mark its 10th anniversary.
On the transportation side, the Tysons area has seen the completion of 31 projects to improve pedestrian and bike access to the new Metrorail stations and the addition of 1.3 miles of new sidewalks, more than a mile of new bike lanes, and 16 new pedestrian crossings.
Tysons also has 14 Bikeshare stations after the service first launched in Fairfax County near the new Silver Line stations in 2016, and more than 100 new road segments have been added to the area’s street grid, now including Scotts Crossing Road.
Though it is modest in scale, VDOT Northern Virginia district engineer Helen Cuervo says the Jones Branch Connector is a critical component of the Tysons Comprehensive Plan, which calls for over $2.8 billion in funding for transportation infrastructure projects.
“The importance of this project is that it ties together the east side of Tysons with the west side of Tysons,” Fairfax County Department of Transportation director Tom Biesiadny said. “It provides connections across the Beltway, particularly for bicycles and pedestrians, who really didn’t have a safe way to get back and forth across the Beltway.”
By providing a direct, alternate route between Tysons East and West, Scotts Crossing Road will relieve traffic congestion on Route 123, especially at the interchange with I-495, and improve access to the I-495 Express Lanes and the McLean and Tysons Corner Metro stations, which are on opposite sides of the Beltway.
Property owners and employers have already started routing their private shuttles along the Jones Branch Connector, according to Ronit Dancis, director of the Tysons Partnership Transportation Management Association.
“The folks over there on that [west] side, before this was open, they only had one Metro station that was a walkable, accessible mile away,” Dancis said. “Now, they have two…That’s how you build a city, is you give people lots and lots of options.”
Hiring Archer Western Construction LLC as the project’s contractor, VDOT began construction on the Jones Branch Connector in February 2020.
The road partly opened in December 2018 with traffic allowed on one lane in each direction, and all four travel lanes opened to traffic this past December. The sidewalks and bike lanes opened in February.
The Jones Branch Connector carries an estimated cost of $60.2 million and was funded with a combination of federal, state, and county money.
Capital One, whose headquarters is off of Scotts Crossing Road on the east side of the Beltway, donated property for a portion of the project, according to Biesiadny.
The next Tysons transportation project slated for completion is Scott’s Run Trail, an eight-foot wide pedestrian trail that will connect Magarity Road at Westgate Elementary School to Colshire Meadow Drive near the McLean Metro station.
With an estimated cost of $3.3 million, the project is a partnership between the Fairfax County Department of Transportation and the Fairfax County Park Authority. Construction started in the summer of 2019.
Biesiadny says his department is also preparing to acquire land for a new pedestrian bridge from Old Meadow Road to Tysons Corner Center, but the most significant ongoing project in the area is the widening of Route 7 from Tysons to Reston, which broke ground on June 13, 2019 and expands almost seven miles of roadway from four to six lanes in addition to adding shared-use paths and other improvements.
“We have a lot of work to do to make sure Tysons is the walkable, urban community that people want to live in and people want to come and invest in,” McKay said. “…Every single transportation infrastructure project we do contributes to that long-term success of this area.”