Monday, October 8, 2012

Major paved trail on Route 7 bridge across Beltway

New Route 7 wide sidewalk across Betlway
Today I had a chance to check out the new major paved trail parallel to Route 7 on the bridge across the Beltway. There is an approximately 10 foot wide concrete trail on each side of the bridge that will connect the Pimmit Hills area just east of Tysons with the greater Tysons area.

This bridge has never had adequate pedestrian facilities, much less bike facilities. As I recall, there was a very narrow concrete ledge that some people used to walk across the bridge. Those cyclists who dared to try to cross, rode in the travel lanes, with high speed exit and entrance ramps onto the Beltway. One reason that FABB started doing bike light giveaways was after a cyclists was killed while riding across the Beltway on Route 7 in Tysons.

Since 2007 a major goal of FABB has been to ensure that bike facilities are included on the bridges across the Beltway. Most Beltway bridges between I-95 and the American Legion Bridge were reconstructed as part of the HOT lanes project, now called the 495 Express Lanes. See the many blog postings on our HOT lanes advocacy. We attended public meetings, wrote a Post Outlook section article, and met with county and VDOT staff to ask that the facilities that are indicated on the county Trails Plan be included in the project.

With support from county DOT and VDOT, those facilities are close to becoming a reality. While they are far from perfect, in most cases they provide the first accommodations for pedestrians and cyclists on the Beltway bridges. As you can see from the photo above, there is still some work to be done but we expect the facilities to be open in the near future.

Trail over Beltway on Route 7 ends at exit ramp
Now that many of the bridges accommodate bikes, Fairfax Co and VDOT need to have a concerted effort to connect those facilities with bike routes on either side of the bridges. The photo on the right shows where the trail on the north side of Route 7 ends, at an exit ramp from the Beltway onto westbound Route 7, with no trail connection to the service road or sidewalk. Connecting this trail should be a high priority for Fairfax DOT and VDOT.

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