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Why is Tysons walkability and bikeability so bad?

Virginia officials have known for years that Metro was coming to Tysons. Yet when the four stations opened, commuters found dreadful and dangerous walking and biking conditions. Why?

The south side of Tysons Boulevard and Galleria Drive. Photo by Ken Archer.

The Fairfax County DOT has been making some progress. There are two crosswalks at the intersection of Route 123 and Tysons Boulevard, which FCDOT recently installed. But at the opposite corner, there are no crosswalks. This is where Ken Archer described pedestrians running across nine lanes of traffic without any crosswalk.

The intersection of Tysons Boulevard and Galleria Drive. The Tysons Corner Metro station is now on the southwest corner. Image from Google Maps.

According to FCDOT director Tom Besiadny, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will not allow a crosswalk across what is now a double right turn lane. FCDOT has been discussing shrinking it to only a single lane, but that requires negotiating with VDOT, which takes a general stance of suspicion if not outright opposition to any change which slows cars.

(Update: Martin Di Caro reports that VDOT has specifically refused to let Fairfax shrink the double right lane until it conducts a six-month study about the traffic impact of the change.)

In a press release, the Coalition for Smarter Growth said these "show the challenges of retrofitting auto-dominated suburbs." It goes beyond just adding a crosswalk; even if FCDOT had one at every corner, there are still curving "slip lanes" for cars to take the turns at high speed. A more urban design would have just a basic square intersection, and with fewer lanes.

Fairfax plans a more comprehensive grid of streets to take some of the traffic volume off of the existing streets, but it will always be a struggle to make intersections smaller or slower versus continuing to design them for maximum car throughput. Even now, VDOT is continuing to widen part of Route 123 further.

Around Tysons Corner station. Photo by BeyondDC on Flickr.

According to Navid Roshan of The Tysons Corner blog, VDOT also refused a request to lower the 45 mile per hour speed limit on Westpark Drive in a residential neighborhood.

It's not just VDOT, however. Bruce Wright, the chairman of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling, pointed out in a comment that many fixes for cyclists were in the Tysons Bicycle Master Plan created in 2011, but which Fairfax County has still not adopted. The plan will go to the county planning commission in October and then the Board of Supervisors.

The original plan called for a first phase of improvements by 2013, most of which are still not done. Those projects were all small, short-term items like adding sharrows and signed bicycle routes, adding enough bike racks at Silver Line stations (which are already almost out of space), and setting up Transportation Demand Management programs with nearby employers.

Roshan created a petition to ask Fairfax and the state of Virginia to prioritize fixing these problems. He points out that all of the improvements together cost less than some of the studies Virginia is doing around adding new ramps to and from the Toll Road—to move cars faster.

They shouldn't ignore traffic, but if Tysons is going to become an urban place, that means building roads that work for all users instead of maybe squeezing in a poor accommodation for pedestrians and/or cyclists as long as it doesn't get in the way of car flow.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission's Tysons Committee will meet tonight from 7-9:30 at the county's (not very transit-accessible) Government Center, 12000 Government Center Drive, Fairfax. The committee will discuss amendments to the Tysons Comprehensive Plan.

As Wright said, the county has been pushing developers to include better bicycle and pedestrian accommodations as they develop or redevelop parcels, but people riding the Silver Line now can't wait for development years down the road. Fairfax and VDOT missed chances to make the roads walkable and bikeable before the Silver Line opened, so there is no time to waste to fix these problems urgently.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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I would love the opportunity, we pick a day in October or something, to do a case study with Fairfax's blessing, to implement some impromptu road diets and observe the havoc that ensues. In many cases (just like the park-ageddon) discussion, it is overblown, and the benefits would like outweigh the minimal if any impact. For instance this double right turn. Close that lane down. I've never seen that exit jammed. The only time it is is when a 495 offramp user merges too early into 123 and closes the right turn off.

If this double right is not needed. Then why is it there? I understand even demo costs money but these are tiny in the grand scheme of things. A few thousand dollars in curb/hand demo. The larger obstacle, as noted in this story, is the ongoing appeasement of VDOT throughput, not the logistics and costs of actually doing the retrofits.

The moment Fairfax (or VDOT) decides to change its mentality and thought process, is the moment when fixes will be simple and easy. Not until then.

by Navid Roshan on Jul 31, 2014 2:38 pm • linkreport

Thanks for giving this issue good coverage on GGW.

What VA officials need to realize is that even if pedestrian improvements slow down traffic at certain intersections in Tysons, getting more people to commute to Tysons via metro will improve traffic flow throughout NOVA.

Tysons employers and landlords need to be paying attention to this issue and pressing their representatives for improvements as well.

by Falls Church on Jul 31, 2014 2:45 pm • linkreport

Navid thanks for setting up the petition, but could you do one aimed at VDOT and/or the NoVa legislative delegation, for folks who live in NoVa but not in Fairfax concerned with these issues (as well as for folks in Fairfax County)

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Jul 31, 2014 2:48 pm • linkreport

Everything said re Tysons is also true in Reston where Wiehle station sits like a fortress in the middle of the DTR moat with few crosswalks (or any walks) on either side. In fact, FC has completed less than half its own checklist of Wiehle access projects:
This six years after the Board accepted the recommendations of the committee it created (RMAG) to analyze the access needs of the station.

by Terry on Jul 31, 2014 2:56 pm • linkreport

I'm sympathetic, but this starts from a flawed premise - that Tysons is going to bet more urban.

It isn't. It is going to get more dense, but from the plans I've seen it just looks like a more dense office park, not a city.

by charlie on Jul 31, 2014 3:07 pm • linkreport

I'll tell you what happened here. Fairfax officials were of the opinion that "who would ever walk, no chance, we can delay and let developers slowly build it up" and what they found out is, actually your constituents aren't as auto-centric as you thought and you are really living in the past.

The age of Fairfax residents, and the generational mix is not such that officials shouldnt have seen this coming, especially along a metro corridor connecting even younger parts of Arlington and DC.

Reality is here. We have too much parking and way too little pedestrian and cycling accomodations. Fairfax can continue to stick their head in the sand and say, this is a future problem, or they can change the culture, spend 1/10th of the money they would have, and fix these things now.

Show some good faith. Ok maybe this intersection is a longer term problem, how about some of the easier to fix ones like Park Run/Tysons Blvd, or the speed limit on Westpark, or simply changing the timing of the walk signals on Route 7 to be more than 20 seconds.

Show SOMETHING to us that you are making progress, not just saying, by 2050 things will be peachy keen. At this rate, no they wont, because already they are years behind their schedule by lacking decisions promoting walking.

by Navid Roshan on Jul 31, 2014 3:07 pm • linkreport

It isn't. It is going to get more dense, but from the plans I've seen it just looks like a more dense office park, not a city.

And that's part of the challenge.

Ken's example of the 9-lane scramble is a good one. The traffic volumes at that intersection are significant, but they're not enormous. The gargantuan roadway configurations is a matter of choice, not some inexorable law of traffic.

The combination of auto-centric design (high speed, large radius turns, etc) and a focus on moving cars (instead of moving cars and pedestrians safely) gives you this kind of result.

The challenge for Tysons is this: The only way they can grow is by becoming more urban (that's the only way to absorb the growth - it can't all be car-centric). The only way to do that is to provide safe pedestrian travel.

The conclusion should be obvious. And there's already big picture consensus about this (hence why they built the Silver Line in the first place), but it will take some time for the logic of that to trickle down to the smaller scales, like crosswalks.

In other words, it's not a flawed premise. It's a logical conclusion. But some groups will come to that conclusion sooner than others.

by Alex B. on Jul 31, 2014 3:14 pm • linkreport

@Charlie, as a person who actually knows the plans going in, you are absolutely incorrect. Please review these plans

Nothing about those is office park. They are mixed use, oriented around transit, and with very good pedestrian access. No one is arguing with what will eventually happen in Tysons here. This is about how long us residents of Tysons have to wait for simply temporary things like crosswalk and sidewalk improvements in the short term (not waiting for 30 years for the good projects to provide them).

by Navid Roshan on Jul 31, 2014 3:23 pm • linkreport

@Navid, everything you are describing may be true, and that isn't close to being urban or being a city. In fact your previous comment is the best answer -- that
Tysons is really just a giant developer orgy, and there is very little consideration (other than a train and big buildings) for things that make a city -- is the best answer to Alex's comment.

by charlie on Jul 31, 2014 3:29 pm • linkreport

Charlie, Navid,

It's both. Tyson's is a city but there's hasn't been much planning beyond adding lanes for cars. The Tyson's comp plan is a good start but the bigger step is actually getting things implemented.

by drumz on Jul 31, 2014 3:33 pm • linkreport

@charlie, I'm not going to get into an argument with you, but I never said anything that you are attributing to me. And anyone who is knowledgeable about the comprehensive plan would understand that isn't true also.

What it is currently, has nothing to do with what the new projects will turn it into.

There is a ton of consideration for those things.

You are derailing the topic at hand which isn't what it will be in 20 or 30 years (which is already established and is good urban design in the projects that have been approved) but instead what the county and VDOT will do in the interim.

This is an interim discussion. Your analysis of the future conditions is your opinion, but as one of the leading experts on what is happening in Tysons I can say you are wrong in my opinion.

by Navid Roshan on Jul 31, 2014 3:34 pm • linkreport

Drumz -> this is the correct analysis. The issue isn't the projects or the new neighborhoods, its the master plan implementation of the counties responsibilities. IE mitigating VDOT wanting standard suburban design standards and traffic studies which create monster intersections.

If the projects were all built today as they are proposed and approved most of the problems we are talking about, would be gone in those neighborhoods.

The key is what will Fairfax choose to do in between those neighborhoods which have solid urban design. By neighborhoods, some of these combined clusters are the size of Clarendon, so this isn't like 2 or 3 buildings of isolated design.

by Navid Roshan on Jul 31, 2014 3:37 pm • linkreport

charlie should go visit the new plaza at the new Tysons Corner Center Entrance facing the Siler Line station (right near the Microsoft Store) It is very much an urban kind of place.

When he says its only trains and big buildings - I take it he wants more urabn style smaller buildings? That will be a challenge. There are some smaller parcels, I think, but I don't know how the economics of rebuilding them looks, now or in the near future. But I think Tysons can be much more urban with big projects, the SL, and with improved walk and bike accommodation, which is the subject of this post.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Jul 31, 2014 3:40 pm • linkreport

@CBF - if that's his take, then thats a very District version of urbanism. I'd point to dozens of cities in the world that are urban and have big buildings. Big buildings can be fine, so long as they dont have big super blocks. In the case of some of the current ones, of course they do thats much of the problem.

But the future buildings have solid walkability, good layouts, normal block sizing, activated ground floors, all the things that make for urbanity.

Either way, its really a tangent, we are talking about what is Fairfax going to do in the next 6 months (before someone is seriously injured), not what will Tysons look like in 30 years.

by Navid Roshan on Jul 31, 2014 3:43 pm • linkreport

BTW I agree with what Navid said upthread - that FFX officials simply didn't expect the volume of bike/ped use up front. Quite frankly I was very surprised that the McLean garage was so lightly used, and the bike parking so heavily used. So while like Bruce I wish the County were farther along with the bike plan, I somewhat sympathize with their surprise.

Do we have any further data than the parking factoids? On number of walkers accessing the stations for example? Which intersections are seeing highest bike/ped usage. I think establishing those as talking points will be more helpful in moving the process forward, at least with FCDOT and the BoS, than just complaining about people being backward thinking.

Right now FCDOT has a lot on its hands with Tysons. There was a story that folks were waiting around for non-existent buses on West Falls Church - which I guess means there were not prominent signs there that the bus routes had changed. Seems like they are scrambling to work out system bugs of that sort this week. It will be a few weeks I think before they can take a breath and see how fast bike/ped is changing (assuming it really is)

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Jul 31, 2014 3:47 pm • linkreport

I've now taken the Silver Line twice in the brief week. Yesterday I got off on the wrong side of the Tysons stop from where I was going and had to reascend into the station and head over, despite the fact that I was going back to ground level. It was definitely frustrating but I was happy that there was that option. Hopefully crosswalks at ground level will come soon.

I will say that this takes time. The Rosslyn-Ballston corridor is the go to place for transit-oriented design and it is only now getting rid of the final pieces of the car oriented area, 35 years after the stations were built. Tysons should be faster than that given the appetite for this kind of design but it won't be overnight.

Maybe I look on the bright side since I've spent time trying to walk in the suburbs of Phoenix that are equivalent distant to Tysons. They make Tysons look like Manhattan in terms of walkability.

by Abe on Jul 31, 2014 3:48 pm • linkreport

@CBF - I am planning on running a story each week at McLean Station on number of bikes parked vs number of cars.

Day 1 a total of 70 cars parked (entire day, not all at once necessarily) as reported by Martin DiCaro of WAMU. I have noticed a slight uptick as the week went on in the numbers there. I'm sure its approaching 100. But the parking lot is 700 spaces. I'd be surprised, even at full rush hour in September, if even half the lot were used.

On the other hand, the bike lockers and racks at McLean station were completely full, and remain so today per my stop by.

by Navid Roshan on Jul 31, 2014 3:51 pm • linkreport

On Monday I decided to take the silver line out to Tysons Corner station to stop by the Galleria. The station is approximately 2 blocks south from the mall . As I walked back to the Metro after a little shopping, while standing at the northwest corner of Galleria Dr and Tysons Blvd, I saw a family of four (parents and two middle school age children) waiting to cross northbound from the southwest corner of this intersection. The pedestrian signal changed to permit crossing and the father began to stop off into the crosswalk, only to have a BMW (or maybe it was a Mercedes) heading eastbound on Galleria Drive make a fast right turn around the curved corner onto southbound Tysons Blvd. The father was lucky not to get run over by this driver, who was able to speed through the turn due to the curved corner (on top of that he never stopped for the red light). The roadways of Tysons Corner are built for people like this driver... helping them travel more quickly through the area at the expense of pedestrian safety.

by Aaron on Jul 31, 2014 3:57 pm • linkreport

Aaron - FTFY "helping them travel [with disregard to traffic laws and] more quickly through the area at the expense of pedestrian safety

by Navid Roshan on Jul 31, 2014 3:59 pm • linkreport

The next low hanging fruit, that FCDOT can implement without dealing with VDOT or alienating motorists, may simple be more bike parking. Won't that send a powerful message!

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Jul 31, 2014 3:59 pm • linkreport

@CBF - but it is reckless and dangerous to on one hand encourage biking and walking, but on the other hand put those same people at times in grave danger unless they have fully mapped out exactly how they will navigate around the deadly obstacles.

Don't get me wrong, please give us more bike parking, but if this is appeasement to say, we've done our job and not continue to pursue real improvements, then I don't want to let them off the hook that easy.

by Navid Roshan on Jul 31, 2014 4:02 pm • linkreport

What we could really use is a bike counter/people counter to show that yes people are out of cars in Tysons in some quantitative means.

by Navid Roshan on Jul 31, 2014 4:03 pm • linkreport

I've stated in a number of times in previous comments that Tysons isn't the "urban paradise" many people think it is, or will be in a few years, especially compared to places like the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor or downtown Silver Spring and Bethesda. Of course Navid and other Tysons promoters argued that this wasn't the case at all.

Now that the Silver Line is open, people are seeing the area for what it truly is--a very large suburban commercial hub with a patchwork of office parks interspersed with parking lots, shopping plazas, shopping malls, and residential high-rises. All of it crisscrossed by wide auto-oriented highways that are pretty hostile to pedestrians. (Ironically, the Silver Line, as great as it is, might have actually made the situation worse on Route 7)

The White Flint district in Montgomery County is very similar in terms of auto-orientation, existing land use, walkability, and future plans for an urban district. The major difference is White Flint is significantly smaller. Hopefully as both areas build out in a more sustainable way, walkability and bikeability will drastically improve.

by King Terrapin on Jul 31, 2014 4:10 pm • linkreport

"I've stated in a number of times in previous comments that Tysons isn't the "urban paradise" many people think it is, or will be in a few years, especially compared to places like the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor or downtown Silver Spring and Bethesda."

I think it will take more than a few years for Tysons to get to where RB or Bethesda are now. Note all three of those had more walkable street grids BEFORE metro, due to their histories.

But when Tysons DOES change it will be more important. Because its bigger, with more development potential. And because it will be such a dramatic model for edge cities around the US.

And I would suggest its already more walkable and bikeable than people may realize. As witness how many people are biking there. That it CAN be biked now, is something FABB has been trying to let me people know. Are there better safer places in the region to bike? Sure. Are there more dangerous ones - absolutely. Similarly for walking.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Jul 31, 2014 4:18 pm • linkreport

Again, I will pose this question, has anyone thought of going directly at the source ... next year is a Board of Supervisors election in Fairfax County?

by Thad on Jul 31, 2014 4:21 pm • linkreport


I am not sure what you are saying - that Navid should run against Supervisor Hudgins?

There are many big issues in FFX county now - education funding and property taxes high on the list, code enforcement, etc. I do not think that the issues in Tysons would be such as to get either of the Supervisors there beaten in a primary. I also think the current BoS more generally is about as pro-urbanism as you are likely to get in FFX county - and its come a long way in just a few years.

As Bruce Wright alluded to on the other thread, there IS another perspective on urbanism in Fairfax County, well expressed by Supervisor Herrity. But it is not one in the direction of more concern for non-auto modes.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Jul 31, 2014 4:25 pm • linkreport

The answer to David's question is -- Tysons walkability is so bad because until now there was no political demand to fix it. We needed the Silver Line to bring the pedestrians.

by Ben Ross on Jul 31, 2014 4:26 pm • linkreport

With all due respect, this is not news. Virtually from Day 1, Fairfax County officials knew that VDOT and the feds would not allow any traffic restriction on the major roads and highways that traverse Tysons. As I recall, about 37% of the traffic on Route 7 is through traffic and the percentage of through traffic on Route 123 is higher.

Both the feds and VDOT have publically maintained for years that Tysons development could not impede traffic flow. Fairfax County officials have known this and acknowledged it in public.

FCDOT for years has tried to find more safe bike routes to, from and around, Tysons. But its engineers have confessed this is a true challenge due to the major roadways and on/off ramps.

From the evidence I've seen, there are a lot of people who would like to bike and walks to, from, and around Tysons, but finding them safe routes is a big challenge.

All the traffic studies show SOV traffic will continue to grow despite the Silver Line, high-quality mixed use development and (hopefully) more safe bike and pedestrian paths and lanes. But it will take 30-40 years before Tysons is fully developed.

Have some people been mislead about what they were going to see at Tysons? I think so.

by tmt on Jul 31, 2014 4:46 pm • linkreport

@Crossing - While I am not suggesting that Navid run, I am suggesting that a challenge at the ballot box does get the attention of politicians. Since Navid has said that his Supervisors (and I know that mine is not) responsive, then maybe finding a challenger for them is a legitimate option.

by Thad on Jul 31, 2014 4:55 pm • linkreport


Please cite the limits imposed by FHWA. FHWA and USDOT generally have been pushing multimodalism, liveability and complete streets, including approving NACTO standards. If federal regulations are in the way of the Tysons transformation, Gerry Connolly (!!!) could take the lead in addressing the issue.

As for VDOT, it may well be that its VDOT that needs to be specifically addressed. Thats why I suggest a NoVa wide petition aimed at VDOT ahd the legislative delegation.

Note, you mention rte 123 and rte 7. But most of the intersections and crossings under discussion are not on those roads - they are on WestPark, Tysons Blvd, and similar roads. I do not think those roads get much through traffic that does not originate or terminate in Tysons.

Have we been misled? Perhaps. For years some people have been saying that people in this area would not switch modes from driving. Yet we see full bike parking, and most of the spots at the McLean garage going empty. Granted the weather has been good, but thats with most of the planned bike improvements (VDOT is not standing in the way of) yet undone.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Jul 31, 2014 5:03 pm • linkreport

We have made great progress if we have gone from "people going to and from Tysons won't give up driving" to "people going to and from Tysons will give up driving, but pols and bureaucrats stand in the way". The former is a very difficult challenge. The latter can be addressed in many ways - first of all by simply marshalling the evidence that the former is false. And then by enlisting the many transformation friendly pols and business interests to address road blocks.

Thats why this current exercise, in identifying the low hanging fruit, is so important.

Its also why I support things like more bike parking, even before the bike infra, because growth in active transport usage will continue to strengthen the case for change.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Jul 31, 2014 5:09 pm • linkreport

I was recently in Tysons and the walking environment is indeed terrible.

Here's the fundamental problem. Sidewalks, crosswalks and pedestrian signals are the absolute basics to be able to *allow* walking. But that's not nearly enough. For an urban Tysons to work, it needs to *encourage* lots of normal people to walk: to feel safe, for the environment to be attractive, well lit, shaded, offer interesting things to look at, etc. This is because the current environment--even with the Silver Line--by default encourages driving over everything other mode of transportation.

If we want truly encourage walking, it probably means road diets to reduce walk distance, adjusting curbs, adding street trees, and reducing speed limits. To make matters worse, VDOT owns many of these roads like Leesburg Pike and Chain Bridge Road. There is zero evidence (and plenty to the contrary) that VDOT will ever allow these things to occur.

You can then make a pretty good argument that the best path to ensuring Tysons has a fighting chance as a walkable urban place is to try to force VDOT's hand to make these changes or simply take the roads out of their control and let FCDOT take them over. Otherwise, it seems unlikely that Tysons will ever achieve the vision.

by Sherman on Jul 31, 2014 5:13 pm • linkreport

If I were Fairfax County, I’d probably want to give it a month or two to fully understand the new normal for the area now that the metro exists. Pre-metro was all theoretical usage estimates. Post-metro means that Fairfax County can actually collect some hard data on the impact, and design appropriate solutions accordingly. Does that mean 6-12 months of dealing with the current pedestrian/bike access problems? Maybe, but I’m okay with that if the studies actually lead to meaningful connections. For example, before I found a better route, my morning commute via bike would take me on this Strava segment by the main mall:

You’ve got a bike lane, sure, but it ends so abruptly that you can actually see both the “bike lane start” and “bike lane end” signs at the same time. They’ve got plenty of room to expand it (literally nothing but grass to the right), but they haven’t done it yet. Ideally, Fairfax County is studying the new pedestrian / bike patterns in the area as we speak, which will lead to smarter decisions on what areas to fix first. Tysons is a big geographic area with a lot of problems, but fortunately, the problems are good ones to have. They just need a way to prioritize.

Like I said in the other thread on this, it’d be great if they had the perfect foresight to make all these improvements ahead of time, but they didn’t. In my mind, there’s no sense in wasting time pointing fingers and assigning blame for what’s not here now when it’s instead much more productive to make suggestions for future improvements. We need to be strategic partners with the Fairfax County / Virginia decision makers, not just a group of angry citizens with no specific goals in mind.

For the record, on my commute into Tyson’s this morning, I saw a survey crew at the intersection of 123 and International Drive, right near the location where I suggested extending the Gallows Road bike lanes. No idea what they were doing, but I’m optimistically hopeful that they’re studying the new normal pedestrian flows now.

Maybe I’m naïve about this, but I really do think a lot of this is coming months down the road, not years. Give it time.

by Jason on Jul 31, 2014 5:19 pm • linkreport

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

Tysons is what Tysons is today. I live here, I think I know how it works and what it is. [Deleted.] I'm a resident who wants to see change. How can I both want to see change, but also think its the best place ever? I don't think it should be demonized as KT would like to suggest as if its the worst place on earth. It isn't and compared to suburbia its quite urban. THAT is the context, not compared to R-B or other urban areas where it will come up short. But yes, Tysons versus Chantilly, Tysons is more urban and easier to get around.

Secondly, TMT it is your continued insistence on "everything is the same" mentality that leads the way on Tysons never changing course. You are stuck in the past. 700 spaces were provided because you said people would still stick to SOV. Where are the parkers? Where is the chaos? 400,000sf of office just opened up, havent seen a single problem from it. Where is the dooms day scenario that the traffic modelers, who don't understand sociology or city planning, keep fortelling. And when will they be held accountable for their outrageously costly mistakes and endangerment of people.

For the record, no such agreement with feds exist, as can be seen by the fact that both 123 and route 7 shrink to smaller road sections through McLean and Falls Church. You want to make Tysons section 20 lanes wide, and shrink to 4 lanes? Guess what happens, bottle neck, no difference, might as well remain 4 lanes. Enter your argument about, but the VDOT folks say... well the point is the VDOT folks are a bunch of dinosaurs who have been proven wrong over and over and over again, and if not for people like you, we'd all be rid of their mentalities and forecasts.

Either way, none of this remains at the core a solution to how we keep a family of 4 from being run over by an SUV tomorrow afternoon. I don't care if the SUV takes an extra minute to get home, I want that family to get home safe.

by Navid Roshan on Jul 31, 2014 5:21 pm • linkreport

rte 123 and rte 7 are distractions. Getting VDOT to narrow or otherwise calm them is a lost cause for now. You can at least cross them via the metro stations which is far better than the case was a week ago.

Access from the Tysons Corner station to Tysons Corner Center will be easy and pleasant as soon as the Vita building is finished and the bridge opens.

The heart of the problem is access to the big quadrant NE of Rte 7 and NW of rte 123 from the Tyson Corner and Greensboro stations.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Jul 31, 2014 5:22 pm • linkreport

@Abe I find the Greensboro metro bridge very convenient. I work in one of the buildings almost adjacent to the Greensboro station. Even though I don't commute via the silver line, I used the bridge this morning to walk over to FedEx. A trip to FedEx used to mean having to drive in, rerouting my bike trip, or enlisting the help of a coworker. Today, it only took me 30 minutes, most of which was spent in the store.

My coworkers and I are also excited about the increased places to eat lunch that are now within walking distance. The metro bridge opens up the other side of 7 to us as we prefer to walk places and there previously wasn't a good way to cross 7 within a half mile of the office. It's nice having the new way to get across in particular because most of the restaurants in close proximity to my building are currently closed because the building is mostly empty or under renovation.

by Chris Poch on Jul 31, 2014 5:22 pm • linkreport

The utility of the stations as bridges in improving walkability in Tysons is an interesting lesson for those contemplating the cost-benefit of rapid transit projects ;)

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Jul 31, 2014 5:26 pm • linkreport

@Chris Poch: I have the same opinion of the bridge at the Tysons Corner station. My coworkers would generally drive to Tysons Corner Center if they wanted to eat lunch there, which I always found silly. But I was the only person willing to dash across ten lanes of traffic to avoid the drive.

On Monday, my coworker and I took the bridge over, and the walk was faster and easier than driving. So it opens up a lot of lunch options, and also makes it much easier to dash over there if I ever need to buy something at the mall (ugh).

by Gray on Jul 31, 2014 5:44 pm • linkreport

Based on the facts provided more bike parking is a great idea. People are biking, staying healthy and saving $5 for parking. People who live in McLean are closer to both McLean and Falls Church metro stations and looks like they are the ones biking to metro.

What about people living on Rt-7 west of Spring Hill?. It is not that bikable, not walkable, driving to McLean station and parking there may take more time than driving to Vienna metro station which is why parking in McLean is not that popular. The parking garages are needed for people living west on Rt-7. Is there any data on how the covered parking garage in TysonsWest (where Walmart is) is getting utilized by daily commuters?

by FLGator on Jul 31, 2014 6:22 pm • linkreport


Funny you should mention Route 7 in Falls Church City. Before 1948, Falls Church was a part of Fairfax County. It ultimately broke off to form the independent city we see today in 1948 due to conflicts over schools with Fairfax County. While it shares some services with Fairfax and Arlington counties, it has its own city council, mayor, etc. elected by city residents. Had that never happened, Route 7 in Falls Church might have looked very different than it does today. Today, despite it being a major thoroughfare, Route 7 in Falls Church is incredibly walkable. There are plenty of places to bike in the area to get you to the businesses along Route 7 (even if you’re not biking on Route 7 directly). Falls Church police strongly enforce the 25 MPH speed limit. There are tons of traffic lights, all of which have proper crosswalks on all four sides. Route 7 makes a lot of sense in Falls Church. It’s not until you get out of Falls Church on either the northwestern end (approaching Tysons) or the southeastern end (approaching Seven Corners) that Route 7 stops making sense. I really think a lot of that is due to Falls Church’s status as an independent city.

Tysons, on the other hand, is a completely unincorporated area within Fairfax County. It’s obviously not an independent city like Falls Church or Alexandria, but it’s also not even an incorporated town like Herndon or Vienna. Would any of this discussion be easier if Tysons became an independent city? Is that even politically feasible in 2014? Could Tysons break off from Fairfax County without Fairfax County’s approval? Would Virginia be okay with it? Is the process to becoming a town easier? Would that confer similar benefits?

The link below also seems relevant to the discussion:

by Jason on Jul 31, 2014 6:42 pm • linkreport

@ Jason

In theory, Tysons could break from Fairfax County and become an independent city (similarly to Falls Church city in the mid-20th century). Tysons cannot become a town under Virginia law, which states with regards to incorporation of a proposed town "The population density of the county in which such community is located does not exceed 200 persons per square mile..."

Fairfax County has a population density much higher than this. This maximum population density requirement is the reason why there are no incorporated towns in Arlington County. Virginia is a "strong county" state, unlike most other states that allow cities to be incorporated within counties. Tysons would have to become an independent city and severe most ties with Fairfax County, which IMO is very unlikely due to its economic importance to Fairfax County.

by Andy L on Jul 31, 2014 6:59 pm • linkreport

A couple comments just to reinforce what others have said.

- I was recently in Falls Church city for the first time in ages, and my it is changing. Lots of new buildings built out to the street, and it was dinner time with lots of people out & about on foot.

- Earlier this week I was around the Dunn Loring station on Gallows Road on both sides of 66, around evening commute time, and was very surprised at the foot and bike traffic I saw.

Its all very encouraging. Gonna be a long road so to speak, but relatively speaking, things are changing fast. It's not going to be like old urbanism, but it will be significantly better than the status quo in Tyson's and other parts of the county.

by spookiness on Jul 31, 2014 7:41 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by King Terrapin on Jul 31, 2014 10:35 pm • linkreport

One of the biggest levers to pull here is to get the major Tysons employers to complain. For them, attracting the best talent from the widest possible pool is a competitive necessity. The only way to do that is to make your office accessible by people from the greater region, not just a narrow pool of folks who happen to live within an easy drive.

And, part of expanding your pool of potential talent is creating metro accessibility to your offices. They've paid a pretty penny for that infrastructure, so they need to be made to realize that the only way to drive value and impact from that investment is to solve the problem of getting to their office from the metro station.

It's kind of like paying big bucks for a topnotch home theater system but not buying any of the cables needed to plug it in.

Tysons is supposed to be the most business friendly place in the region. If government officials understand that their reputation as a great place to locate a business is getting tarnished, maybe they'll see this as something bigger than just a few crosswalks or even a mere transportation problem.

by Falls Church on Jul 31, 2014 11:27 pm • linkreport


The answer is obvious: Fairfax County officials -- and, really, American planners, generally, with few exceptions -- are cowards when it comes to making their communities more walkable and sustainable at the expense of traffic flow for motorists. They refuse to consider a new paradigm of "moving people" and are stuck in an outdated one of "moving cars and cars alone."

See Buenos Aires for a good example of a city -- in a developing country, I might add! -- showing courage:

Fairfax County will never, EVER have a good urban environment until it is willing to understand that improvements for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users absolutely must come at the expense of drivers.

by James on Aug 1, 2014 4:57 am • linkreport

Citing Buenos Aires as a good example is nice, but bear in mind that only 31.4% of Argentinians own cars, versus 79.7% of Americans.

It's a lot easier for elected officials and their hired planners to oppose drivers when drivers can't band together to collectively vote you out of power for your actions. I'm not sure that's particularly courageous on the Argentinians part... or simply Argentinian politicians pandering to their constituents, the vast majority of which don't own cars.

by Dave on Aug 1, 2014 8:56 am • linkreport

Car ownership rates in Western Europe are roughly similar to the US and planners still make life harder for those drivers and better for transit users, cyclists and pedestrians -- they're doing this not to be mean, but for real policy aims: climate change concerns, quality-of-life improvement, public health, pollution, etc.

Yes, it is possible to do this, even in societies with high rates of car ownership. Just look at Europe!

by James on Aug 1, 2014 9:00 am • linkreport

I don't believe the developers are helping advocate for better infrastructure for bikes as they fundamentally believe everyone will drive to Tyson's or walk. Proof is in the pudding....where are the cycle tracks???! That road system is too hostile to invite bicycling. That is the real shame and missed opportunity with the developments proposed. They accept the VDOT premise for wide roads leaving ano space for Cycletracks. Guarantee as ped volumes increase demands will grow to get those scofflaw cyclists off the sidewalks.

by Joe on Aug 1, 2014 9:10 am • linkreport

Wide roads leave plenty of opportunity for bike lanes and cycle tracks. Just re-stripe any of those unneeded general purpose lanes.

by Dave G on Aug 1, 2014 9:12 am • linkreport

Note well.

Under the current comprehensive plan, total built space in the Tysons Urbn District is capped at 84 million square feet. It can increase to 113 million sq ft, but ONLY if there are no additional auto trips over those forecast for the 84 million sq ft scenario. The land owners have a huge incentive to switch trips out of auto, by any means necessary. They may not be as concerned with the situation right now, but ultimately they will be allies in prevailing on VDOT to help accommodate such shifts.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Aug 1, 2014 9:16 am • linkreport

And we get further confirmation that it is VDOT, and not budget or design concerns that are the problem.

"The county plans to narrow the intersection and install the missing crosswalks, but those improvements are at least a year away. For instance, county engineers want to take away one of the two right-hand turning lanes along Tysons Boulevard in order to make it easier to cross, but the Virginia Department of Transportation is asking the county to conduct a six-month study to determine if the lane removal would cause unreasonable traffic backups."

by Navid Roshan on Aug 1, 2014 9:38 am • linkreport

Well, sure, a few dead pedestrians are perfectly reasonable, but a extra minute for drivers is unthinkable.

by Crickey7 on Aug 1, 2014 9:49 am • linkreport

You know, I agree with the person who called Tysons/Silver Line a great "urban tragedy."

At the same time, with headways of 6-20 minutes -- and appalling bus service by the standards of most other rich or middle-income countries -- perhaps it will just never be practical for Tysons and surrounds to ever be a truly sustainable, livable, walkable urban environment.

If we want Copenhagen or Barcelona, we need to pay for that kind of infrastructure investment. You can't get the glorious levels of urban form that those cities have when you just run a system with 15-minute headways outside of rush hour.

by James on Aug 1, 2014 9:53 am • linkreport

I'm not sure if the argument against is framed as A. there will be few dead pedestrians because there are few pedestrians or B. there safe paths for pedestrians, they just need to go out of their way (in reality I suppose its more likely that its "we are measured on LOS, and peds do not count for that.)

However arguing for either the importance of pedestrian safety, or pedestrian inconvenience, it will be helpful to track pedestrian numbers.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Aug 1, 2014 9:55 am • linkreport

Why are people here not mentioning the fact that there are bridges in the first place ?

If this was built in DC or Arlington people would be complaining about it not being urban due to the bridges if you want more people using the streets get rid of the damn bridges and make people take the sidewalks!

There should be no bridge to the mall you should be using the cross walk along 123 crossing over to a sidewalk and then walking to the mall.

People on here have complained about pedestrian bridges in other locations around the area for years but you welcome one here why is that ?

by kk on Aug 1, 2014 9:58 am • linkreport

kk, the bridges don't come into play here. This is away from route 123 and route 7 where actual development is.

by Navid Roshan on Aug 1, 2014 10:03 am • linkreport

Because the road is so damned wide, the fight against widening has been lost, and the prospect of a meaningful signalized crossing timed for pedestrians is so low, that the bridges are the best we can do, at least for now.

This isn't Rosslyn (sorry Navid)

I can say however, I don't think anyone here thinks bridges of Galleria Drive, or Tysons Blvd, or WestPark are the answer. The push there is for surface crosswalks, and keeping peds on the surface.

As I said above, rtes 7 and 123 are lost causes, at least for now.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Aug 1, 2014 10:06 am • linkreport

It will take many years for things to change. A lot of the office and retail inventory is reaching the end of its life (no more depreciation to amortize) and as the old strip malls and office buildings get replaced, the character of the area will change. Fairfax isn't exactly forward looking, so a lot will depend on landowners and tenants (i.e., employers) pressing the County to do something to make the area more workable, esp. if there are planning metrics that encourage them to do so, so that they can create more intensive development of their properties.

by Rich on Aug 1, 2014 10:47 am • linkreport

Following up on a comment Navid made yesterday, I think we find ourselves in a chicken & egg station access game at both Tysons and Reston.
The County, which really doesn't have the money to build the needed infrastructure nor has been effective in dealing with VDOT, wants to build/pay for the access capabilities through proffers, that is, as the developers build.
The developers, on the other hand, don't want to build until the basic access infrastructure is there.
A few developers will build (as they are in Tysons) despite the continuing slump in the CRE office market and that will get the ball rolling, but it will be years before a basic pedestrian/bicycle access infrastructure is in place. Until then, the Silver Line will be more show than go.

by Terry on Aug 1, 2014 11:05 am • linkreport

@Terry, actually funds aren't the problem. They have an overflow of funds on hand in Tysons due to the special tax district. Even FCDOT head Tom Biesadny noted this. It is the 6-month study periods that VDOT requires for any intersection mod, to see impacts to drivers, which is delaying these easy changes up to a year.

The amount of funds already provided from the special tax over the last year is enough to fund all pedestrian projects that are of immediate need today.

by Navid Roshan on Aug 1, 2014 11:24 am • linkreport


The delegates representing Tysons are Comstock (R) and Keams (D) correct? Senator is Janet Howell (D) ???

Has anyone done outreach to them on this issue?

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Aug 1, 2014 11:32 am • linkreport

If VDOT is the major impediment to a lot of this work (the speed limit on Westpark seems particularly ridiculous, the others at least have some justification, even if it's not strong), what would it take for Fairfax County to cut loose from VDOT altogether? Henrico County and Arlington County have already done this, as has almost every independent city in the state...

by Joe in SS on Aug 1, 2014 2:36 pm • linkreport

@Joe: it would take money and the politics simply aren't there for that move. We're lucky not to have all non-car spending eliminated by Supervisor Herrity, let alone see a move to prioritize something else over cars on his watch.

by Mike on Aug 1, 2014 2:51 pm • linkreport

I sure hope something civilized can be made from the office sprawl known as Tysons Corner. It is extremely hostile for anyone not in a car.

by NE John on Aug 2, 2014 9:48 am • linkreport

@ Joe

Fairfax County supervisors have examined taking over secondary roads from VDOT, but, with the exception of Supervisor Cook, oppose it. That's a 9-1 majority. It is not going to happen absent a major change in the board's makeup.

Through traffic. FCDOT and VDOT are committed to keep through traffic moving on Routes 7 & 123. One of the newest proposals is to replace the overpass at the junction of these roads with an at grade intersection and superstreet. The County and VDOT believes this change would move more traffic than the existing arrangement. The two agencies also plan other superstreets on Route 123, as they are relatively inexpensive and would not require more right-of-way. My source is a friend who is a member of the Tysons Partnership board. The board discusses road projects regularly at their meetings.

At the risk of being attacked, I think it is important to understand the political realities of Tysons. While the area will grow and will have more residents and voters, most will be tenants and not homeowners. Communities with tenants tend to have greater turnover and lesser political participation than communities with larger numbers of homeowners. Tysons landowners and developers have said publically they don't expect to build many, if any, large condo projects in Tysons. They cannot get financing for those projects unless they can presell at least 50% of the units. Condo projects will likely be in smaller buildings and fewer units, with apartments the vast majority of units. These remarks were made by two developers this last week at an MCA meeting.

At the same time, there will be better bike and pedestrian access as the grid of streets is built over time. Virtually every rezoning application has included both partial street grids and bike and pedestrian facilities. But as many have noted correctly, the presence of four major roads limit the connectivity with nearby communities and, to some degree, within Tysons. But the County has known this for many years.

by tmt on Aug 2, 2014 10:48 am • linkreport

Another issue is that, even where there are crosswalk signs, some of the signs only light up when they are indicating it's safe to cross. When they should be red, they don't display at all, so they appear to be out of order and the net result is that pedestrians think they have to take matters into their own hands.

The county and VDOT really should be ashamed here for not having all this addressed before the stations, which are quite nice, opened.

by Dan on Aug 2, 2014 11:33 am • linkreport

I believe this is a glass-is-half-full-or-empty issue. Tysons has had plenty of bikeability since the 80s; now route 7 has even more sidewalks for peds. My half-full perspective sees the intersection in the photo as having 2 crosswalks that allow crossing in both directions, same as Nutley Street & Lee Highway, and lots of other intersections near and far from metro stations throughout the world. Half-fullers plan their route to take advantage of the existing facilities; half-empties whine that their fantasy of having crosswalks on all 4 corners has gone unfulfilled, then they get back in their cars. Even a slow walker or cyclist like me can find gaps in the traffic that allow crossing on foot or with feet on pedals. If your glass is half-full and you are patient, you can cross any street (interstates/high speed highways are not recommended, but they too are possible).

In the 90s, I bike commuted from City of FFX to the ‘shopping bag building’ on Towers Crescent Drive; in the 80s, I bike commuted from City of FFX to office buildings on route 7. How did I manage this? I didn't perceive an idyllic vision of bike utopia; I didn't notice or whine about missing crosswalks or cycletracks - I just planned accordingly and did it 30 years ago (see next paragraph for tips). The title of this article has always seemed like an urban legend to me. Replaying it probably discourages anyone from even trying to bike. I hope to encourage others to try it.

What else is/has been bike-friendly about Tysons? Between the beltway and route 267, Route 7 has had low speed, sparsely motorized frontage roads in both directions for over 30 years, and the roads between route 7, toll road/267, beltway and route 123 are rarely as busy as Nutley Street on any day. You can likely take a bus for the sections that are beyond your comfort zone - and now there are even more buses (plus trains and sidewalks). Gallows Road’s ‘road diet’ added a bike lane for most of its section between the Dunn Loring station and route 7 years ago. (There have been decent sidewalks on both side of Gallows Rd. for over 20 years.) Towers Crescent Drive is an ideal way for bikes and peds to cross route 7 - and has been for over 20 years. Route 123 can be crossed at Old Courthouse/Gosnell. There’s only 1 significant hill, so Tysons' terrain is also bike-compatible (On a clear day, you can see National Cathedral from the intersection of Gallows/International and route 123). There are lots of residential streets that are ideally suited to get to/from Tysons from Fairfax, Vienna McLean & Falls Church, and lots of ways to traverse Tysons' flat terrain on a bicycle.

Now there’s train service that does not allow bikes on board during rush hours. At least the elevators at the silver stations (and Rosslyn) are large enough to accommodate several passengers carrying bikes/strollers/luggage.

by megak8 on Aug 4, 2014 9:33 am • linkreport

"FCDOT and VDOT are committed to keep through traffic moving on Routes 7 & 123."

I believe, as I have said above, that the focus on Rte 7 and Rte 123 is a distraction from lower hanging fruit. With the opening of the Silver Line, the most important issue is probably getting from the Greensboro and Tysons Corner stations to all points within the largest quadrant of Tysons - that NE of 7 and NW of 123, in which the Galleria sits, as well as most of Tysons offices and residences are. Tysons Blvd, WestPark, etc are not in the National Highway network, and AFAIK are not VDOT priorities, and do not directly impact the through movement on Rtes 7 and 123. Similarly signficant improvements can be made on walking and cycling into Tysons from adjoining communities without chaning those routes (beyond the change already made by having the new metro stations serve as pedestrian bridges)

In the long run, as Tysons builds out, as mode share changes, as the number of Tysons residents grows (both tenants and owners) and as the neighboring communities change due to residential sorting (and possibly shift somewhat from owning to renting as Mcmansions in places like Pimmit Hills age, and possibly with changes to national tax policy) it will possible to reexamine alternative approaches to Rte 7 and 123 - whether that involves undergrounding them, converting them to complete streets, or building grade seperated local tranit connecting the quadrants, its too early to say.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Aug 4, 2014 9:49 am • linkreport

As Tysons redevelops, so will the grid of streets and improvements to internal streets, which will include better bike access and sidewalks/trails for pedestrians. Fairfax County has also indicated it will push for safe walking access from buildings within the 1/4 and 1/2 mile rings from Metro stations. CrossingBrooklynFerry, if this is what you are saying, I'm in agreement. Routes 7 & 123 are not likely to be very usable for bikes and pedestrians, but that does not mean nearby streets cannot.

I don't think the public will see undergrounding of bike lanes or sidewalks. If it was too expensive to underground the Silver Line, it is most likely way too expensive to underground sidewalks and trails.

There is considerable potential within Tysons to increase walkability and convenience and safety for bike riders. Those efforts should be pursued. But it's tilting at windmills to expect the Beltway, the DTR, and Route 7 and 123 to become radically different than they are today. I doubt the Fairfax County supervisors would support such a major diversion of funds from other projects around the County to Tysons, most especially when those projects are not in the existing Comp Plan. Further, the Tysons landowners are strongly against adding transportation projects to the Comp Plan as they added to the tax burden in Tysons.

My only points on renters versus owners is that the developers are saying for the foreseeable future, there are not going to be many condo projects in Tysons and those that are, will be much smaller in scale (and likely further from the rail stations) absent a change in construction financing. Also, I just don't see the political involvement of renters matching that of owners.

by TMT on Aug 4, 2014 11:39 am • linkreport

"I don't think the public will see undergrounding of bike lanes or sidewalks. If it was too expensive to underground the Silver Line, it is most likely way too expensive to underground sidewalks and trails."

I did not mean to suggest undergrounding sidewalks and trails. I meant undergrounding, say, rte 123 itself, as Navid has suggested. While I understand that the structure of the existing comprehensive plan means there is little incentive for that to take place, in the long run (by which I mean past 2040) its an option.

"There is considerable potential within Tysons to increase walkability and convenience and safety for bike riders. Those efforts should be pursued. But it's tilting at windmills to expect the Beltway, the DTR, and Route 7 and 123 to become radically different than they are today."

The focus in the original post here is not on transforming rets 7 and 123. Rather most of us are discussing tysons blvd, Westpark drive and similar arterials. Those are not trivial issues.

"I doubt the Fairfax County supervisors would support such a major diversion of funds from other projects around the County to Tysons, most especially when those projects are not in the existing Comp Plan. Further, the Tysons landowners are strongly against adding transportation projects to the Comp Plan as they added to the tax burden in Tysons."

Again, I think that in the medium term, the focus will be on places other than those routes. However in, say, 20 yeasrs its likely the board will have new members, and tysons landowners will be even more concerned about walkability than they are now.

"My only points on renters versus owners is that the developers are saying for the foreseeable future, there are not going to be many condo projects in Tysons and those that are, will be much smaller in scale (and likely further from the rail stations) absent a change in construction financing."

Thats a regional (or even national) issue with the supply of condos, due to post-bubble rules by federal lending agencies. I would note that of late there have been more condo projects proposed (esp in the District I think) than was the case even a year ago. So it may not be long before the mix changes.

" Also, I just don't see the political involvement of renters matching that of owners."

thats likely to remain the case. But even if it is, the shift in numbers will tell. Already Tysons has 21,000 residents compared to 17,000 when the plan was developed. And with the Silver Line, there are now residents of Restons (perhaps not the majority) with a direct interest in walkability in Tysons (there are many who take the bus into Tysons but perhaps they do not have high levels of political participation either. It is certainly true though that homeowners, especially affluent and older ones, have very high levels of participation compared to others. That is one reason its good that the landowners are an influential lobby, and that the County has a stake in change in terms of its own goals. That IMO offsets to some degree the disproportions among different groups in their political partication.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Aug 4, 2014 12:23 pm • linkreport

I've only lived in NoVa for 27 years, but we always seem to get infrastructure changes AFTER they are needed. There is little, if any, effort to be proactive. And sometimes the new development precludes the necessary infrastructure updates.

It's the opposite of that famous line from "Field of Dreams" -- "If you build it, he will come." Here it's "Let's wait til he's here, then try to build it." Just silly. For decades.

by WRepole on Aug 5, 2014 1:07 pm • linkreport

If there is enough market demand for crosswalks etc., developers will build them.

by Steve D. on Aug 6, 2014 5:03 pm • linkreport

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