July 25, 2002
Charlene Curry lives next to where a proposed elevated rail line along the Dulles Corridor would run. The mother of a two-year-old daughter, Alexandra, already installed sound proof windows in her house to cope with the existing noise of traffic.
"We're hoping that we'll get a sound barrier put up," she said. "If there's not a barrier I think it'll impact our quality of life."
June Lavington, a schoolteacher, lives in the same McLean Ridge community as Curry. She said she could understand how some people might be bothered by the additional noise. For her part, she said, a rail line would not disturb her very much.
"I moved to New York when I was in my 20s from a small Southern town," she said. "And despite the noise of ambulances and police cars, I slept extremely well the first night."
SOME COMMUNITIES along the corridor have started organizing. Citizens in Hallcrest Heights hired an acoustical engineer to determine the impact of a rail line along the Dulles Toll Road, said Clark Tyler, president of the Hallcrest Heights homeowners association.
Hallcrest Heights is a community of 158 townhomes sandwiched between Route 123, Great Falls Street and the Dulles Corridor. Some maps in the Environmental Impact Statement for the Dulles Corridor Rapid Transit Project show an elevated rail line running above the neighborhood before veering off to the west to go into Tysons Corner.
The EIS was released last month and presents a variety of options for public transit along the Dulles Corridor, including rail service, rapid bus transit service (BRT), or a combination of the two. The rail option would require building a rail line in the median of the Dulles Toll Road.
"We're going to be sitting under an elevated railway," said Tyler. "When it gets to us it's going to be fully elevated to bend into Tysons."
Despite that, Tyler said his homeowners association supported the Rail to Dulles project. But he added that the rail project would be a good opportunity to provide the residents of Hallcrest Heights with a good sound barrier. Currently a wooden wall separates the neighborhood from the highway, a wooden wall that Tyler said is rotting.
"It is worth absolutely nothing," he said. "They got it repaired with a 2 by 4 and a piece of plywood."
BUT OFFICIALS working on the Dulles Corridor Rapid Transit Project say the noise impact will be minimal. "I don't believe there were significant impacts based on noise in any of the residential areas," said Chip Badger, assistant director for public transportation with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. "The additional noise from either the BRT or the rail is within ambient noise levels."
Badger also said that the project was considering a five-foot buffer wall for the rail option. The wall would separate the rail line from the highway.
Tyler is not convinced. He said the noise levels are already too high in his neighborhood. Believing that there will be no significant noise impacts of screeching wheels turning towards Tysons Corner is "like believing in the Easter bunny," he said.
"This is the only section in the Dulles corridor that does not have adequate noise barriers," he added. "You can't treat it as a rail-only instance. A corridor is a corridor. It has everything but honking geese."
THE HALLCREST HEIGHTS community received the support of Dranesville Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn (R) on Monday. On Mendelsohn's recommendation, the board asked the Fairfax County Department of Transportation to forward the neighborhood's concerns to the Dulles Corridor Rapid Transit Project and to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and to request a written response from WMATA.
"Although I am aware that complete noise and traffic mitigation strategies will not be developed until the final design of the project, I believe that it is important to voice the concerns of our communities as early as possible," he wrote in a statement presented to the board.
Mendelsohn also said he thought there would be a significant noise impact from the project.
"The EIS gave it a little short shrift," he said.