Thursday, December 10, 2009


The better part of this morning was spent at a meeting at Tyson's Corner, and unlike a lot of meetings it was actually useful (and they served breakfast! Beats the hell out of my normal breakfast of granola bars and shame). But I'm not going to post about the meeting itself, rather the morning drive into Tysons.

For those of you not from the DC area, let me tell you that Northern Virginia is a complete mess of poorly planned overdevelopment leading to aesthetic and transportation and lifestyle nightmares. Think North Jersey meets the Los Angeles area, with weather falling somewhere between those two locales. Traffic is a constant snarl, and everything is either a mess of soulless steel-and-glass or ugly strip malls. There's no real grid, as you'd find in the city, so if you get lost you're basically screwed. Since the population of this region is made up mostly of northern transplants, I figured the confusing and irrational planning that went into the road and development system was part of some anti-Yankee revenge for the Civil War. I imagine if the war was fought today, General Sherman's forces would be stuck in traffic somewhere on Chain Bridge Road near the Beltway, wondering if they should eat at this Applebee's or try for the Hooters down the road.

The part of Fairfax County that is called Tyson's Corner is the epitome of everything good and bad about Northern Virginia. Tyson's Corner is likely named after some dude named Tyson who owned a corner of some dirt road. It was probably very charming and rustic back then. Today, it is a crowd of skyscrapers, auto dealerships, chain restaurants (both middle class like Silver Diner and high end, like the Palm), and the noted malls Tyson's Galleria and Tyson's Corner Center. For some reason developers and businesses decided this was a great place to set up shop, although it's not directly on I-66 and has no Metro access yet. Its' as though someone said "let's just build wherever this frisbee lands" and went from there.

Apparently there are going to be changes for Tyson's Corner, including four new Metro stops when they expand the line in a few years, and redevelopment plans intended to make the area more pedestrian friendly and less congested (which should take decades). These are welcome changes, though it'll be expensive and time consuming considering this is an area that could be a decent sized city in its own right. But the area right now is a good cautionary tale for what happens when an area overdevelops without any real long range plan. It would have made a lot more sense to keep this in mind decades ago.

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