TYSONS CORNER, Virginia (WUSA9)--It took just days after the opening of the $3 billion Silver Line Metrorail for the pedestrian infrastructure in Tysons Corner to be exposed as inadequate and potentially dangerous.
While Fairfax County planners say more than three dozen improvements are in the pipeline, the completion of crosswalks, sidewalks, and traffic signals near the four new Metro stations is years away. Meantime, people are taking chances crossing busy intersections to get to the rail and bus stops.
"We were watching people cross here and you are like a sitting duck. I mean, it is really dangerous," said Marc Cannon who paused his jog to talk at the intersection of Tysons Boulevard and Galleria Drive. "There was one woman who was crossing when we were running by and we happened to notice she could have been picked off easily."
"It surprises me that there is not the money to do the infrastructure that you need to keep it safe for pedestrians," said Cannon's jogging partner Cheryl Scully.
The issue is not money. Fairfax County has earmarked more than $300 million for pedestrian improvements. $83 million is for Tysons Corner. County officials targeted 37 locations in Tysons for infrastructure upgrades in a study completed in 2011, but most remain incomplete as Metro's first new line since 1991 carries its first passengers.
"We have about a third of those 37 that are done already. There are some in construction right now. All the rest of them are in design," said Tom Biesiadny, the director of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, who said it will take years to complete every project.
Metro has determined enhancing pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure does more to increase ridership at underutilized rail stations than building parking lots. Moreover, turning Tysons from a car-dominated suburb into a walkable urban environment depends on making its streets pedestrian and bike friendly, otherwise the envisioned city may struggle to attract new residents to the high rise condos going up around the Silver Line stops.
At the intersection of Tysons Boulevard and Galleria Drive, just one block from the new Tysons Corner Metro station, there are only two crosswalks. Most pedestrians are using them, but some are scampering across nine lanes of traffic to take a shorter route where there are no markings.
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.