Letter to NVTC re Seven Corners Ring Road

September 7, 2023

Chair Dahlia Palchik
Northern Virginia Transportation Commission
2300 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 230
Arlington, VA 22201

Re: Our opposition to proposed design of the Seven Corners Ring Road

Dear Chair Palchik and members of the Commission:

We are writing to express strong concerns about the proposed design of the Seven Corners Ring Road and to ask that NVTC not endorse the proposed design. Your proposed letter of endorsement to NVTAuthority is on your consent agenda and is item 3d. We request that it be pulled from the consent agenda and that you vote to defer action, while requesting consideration of a design that is more appropriate for your goals of walkable, transit-oriented communities.

Many years ago, the Coalition for Smarter Growth participated in the Seven Corners Small Area Plan and supported the critically needed grid of streets and the Ring Road concept to support a walkable, mixed-use, transit-oriented community. However, at that time we had no idea that Fairfax County would propose an oversized design for the Ring Road.

In recent years, our Northern Virginia Advocacy Manager, Sonya Breehey, a Fairfax resident who lives not far from Seven Corners, has participated in the community meetings and raised concerns at those meetings and directly with staff about the wide design concept that staff have been proposing. The whole point of the Ring Road is to contribute to a walking, biking, and transit friendly community and to disperse car and truck traffic. 

While we strongly support the Route 7 Bus Rapid Transit line and the dedicated lanes on the east side of the Ring Road, and are pleased to see the proposed cycle tracks and sidewalk connections, these will not be great environments for people walking, biking, and using assistive devices, and will not link together the four quadrants in a walkable, transit-oriented environment.

  • The eastside Ring Road is proposed to be 123 feet wide (sidewalk to sidewalk) with four car lanes, a center turn lane, and two dedicated bus lanes. It should instead be two thru car lanes,a center turn lane, and two dedicated bus lanes. 
  • The westside Ring Road is proposed to be 101 feet wide (sidewalk to sidewalk) with four car lanes and a center turn lane. This road should have just two car lanes and a center turn lane.
  • It is not clear what changes will be made to Route 7 itself. It does not appear that it is being reduced in size and may remain a combined 6 to 7 lanes (including turn lanes).

Our concern is that this project would add eight thru lanes in the two arms of the Ring Road to the existing lanes on Route 7. This would simply be too much added capacity and asphalt in an area already overrun by cars. We’re supposed to be making it better. 

Staff argue that their traffic models say that this additional capacity will be needed. However, national modeling expert Norm Marshall at Smart Mobility, Inc. has repeatedly shown to COG and VDOT/MDOT that the regional model is flawed and overpredicts future traffic, and then those unrealistic future volumes are fed into the intersection modeling software, meaning their answer is always more lanes.

At the same time, our DOT staff have not accepted that congestion will create a feedback loop where people will react by traveling at different times of the day, or will walk or bike, or take transit (especially on dedicated lanes), and will increasingly move to neighborhoods where they can drive less. CSG, TPB, and national studies show that these transit-oriented communities reduce driving demand and vehicle miles traveled, leaving room for those who need to drive. 

Simply put, the expanded car capacity in the proposed Seven Corners design will create a self-fulfilling prophecy of more cars and more driving. Instead, we should build a transportation system that supports the walkable, inclusive, transit-oriented communities that are the stated priority of Fairfax County, Northern Virginia, and Council of Governments. 

Therefore, we urge you to defer action on the NVTC letter of endorsement and to recommend to Fairfax County and VDOT an alternative design that removes two thru car lanes on the Ring Road.  


Stewart Schwartz
Executive Director

Sonya Breehey
Northern Virginia Advocacy Manager