Great Falls: Route 7 Under Construction For 6 Years

Great Falls: Route 7 Under Construction For 6 Years

The main challenge of the project: Maintaining the traffic while VDOT widens the road.

— The Virginia Department of Transportation plans to spend $234 million on improvements to nearly seven miles of Route 7, which include widening it from four to six lanes between Reston Avenue and Jarrett Valley Drive.

The project will be awarded to a contractor by January 2018 with construction starting by March 2019 and finishing in late 2025—a total of six years.

“The design builder has opportunities for innovation in order to make things faster, save money, be less impactful for the property owners, but the broad strokes of the project … will be written into the contract that they will have to follow,” says Angel Tao, deputy project manager with VDOT.

These broad strokes include: widening to six lanes, improving intersections and adding 10-foot shared-use paths on both sides of the road for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The project will also relocate the intersection at Lewinsville Road, replace the bridge over Difficult Run stream and will add a partial interchange to the intersection at Baron Cameron Avenue.

Drivers will be able to access the existing infrastructure while the new structures are being built, which means detours will not be required, according to VDOT spokespeople.

THE MAIN CHALLENGE of the project will be maintaining the traffic while VDOT widens the road.

“There’s quite a bit of traffic that travels on Route 7 and we’re going to be doing extensive improvements, so that’s going to be one of the main challenges that we have,” says Terry Yates, assistant land use manager with VDOT.

Fortunately for drivers, VDOT will keep all lanes open during rush hours, says Lee Ann Hall, location and design engineer with VDOT.

“Whenever we’re doing a roadway project, we want to minimize impacts to the traveling public as much as possible,” Hall says. “If we could reduce the number of lanes for a longer period of time, that would certainly help us finish a project sooner, but that’s just not what happens in Northern Virginia.”

Conversations about the project with residents living along the corridor that will be impacted began in 2012. VDOT also formed a working group to keep the residents informed during the design process.

“We received a good bit of interest from the community regarding noise laws,” says Hall. “Where feasible we made modifications to reduce impacts to the homes.”

But the times of construction will be determined by the contractor that is awarded the work. Hall imagines around the clock operations.

“At night, the contractor may want to take advantage of closing some lanes to maximize their work,” Hall says.

“[The contractors] will be cognizant that it is a residential area and will try not to make a lot of noise,” says Tao.

THE GREAT FALLS CITIZENS ASSOCIATION Transportation Committee submitted this statement to The Connection regarding the planned work:

“Members of the Route 7 Working Group who represent Great Falls feel that the current design is as basically agreed. We also feel that the collaborative effort of VDOT/FCDOT, the community, supervisors offices, and others has resulted in a better design that is more sensitive to community needs. However, there are still a number of unresolved issues, including those related to sound walls and stormwater management ponds. The design could also change based on feedback from the November Design Public Hearing.

Should a design-build approach be adopted by VDOT, we are concerned about possible changes to the plans since the general contractor would have leeway to make modifications in the design in order to expedite the work and/or reduce costs. At this point it is not clear what incentives might be given to the contractor for executing the final agreed-upon design that the Working Group and community has strived to ensure, as well as the group’s role in reviewing proposed changes going forward. We look forward to continuing the practice of open communications between the design team, Working Group, and the public.”