David Dantzler started off the June 23 citizens' meeting at Marshall High School with a talk about how rail transformed Arlington County. In the 1960s when Metro’s Orange Line was being planned, Arlington residents lobbied for it to be placed underground and through the neighborhoods which, at the time were in decline, Dantzler said.
“It seemed pretty visionary then,” said Dantzler, former manager of transit oriented development and economic development projects for Arlington County.
Dantzler was one of three panelists at a meeting sponsored by a coalition of citizen’s groups, including Fairgrowth, the Great Falls Citizen’s Association, the Hunter Mill Defense League, Options for Oakton, the Providence District Council and the Southwest Vienna Citizen’s Association.
The meeting attracted about 160 people, including a handful of government officials or their representatives and some people from the development community. It was the second such meeting sponsored by the groups, the first was in April at Oakton High School.
Dantzler spoke about Arlington’s approach to transit-oriented development and the density that it generated. The analogy in Fairfax was the possible redevelopment of Tysons Corner as the new Metro Silver Line passes through, and possible changes in Reston and other areas as the train reaches Dulles.
The various stops in Arlington were each to be developed with their own distinct character, Dantzler said, echoing an idea that some have voiced for the redevelopment of Tysons Corner. “Each station had a theme,” he said.
Dantzler stressed that development can work around Metro stops, and that community involvement is the key. “Growth around Metro can be great if it's planned well with citizen involvement. You need a process that preserves important community values,” he said.
The rest of the meeting was a debate about the merits of rail versus Bus Rapid Transit (sometimes called BRT). Rail is the traditional Metro train and BRT makes use of a dedicated lane on the roads. If it has a the dedicated lane, it can generally avoid traffic snarls, even though it operates on the road.
Funding for Metrorail’s Silver line has been secured at the local and state levels, and is in progress at the federal level. Preliminary engineering for the rail line is underway for the first portion that will go through Tysons Corner to Reston.
On June 24, Dulles Transit Partners, the group performing preliminary engineering on the Silver line, issued revised cost estimates for the section of the rail line that is to go to Tysons Corner. The initial cost estimate had been $1.6 billion for that section of the project. The new estimate puts the cost at $1.7 billion-$2.4 billion.
It is expected to be operational by 2011 or 2012.