When Susan Turner presented her personally drafted resolution opposing the entire Dulles Corridor Metrorail project at the Feb. 7 McLean Citizens Association (MCA) Board of Directors meeting, the ensuing uproar prompted the resignation of MCA Transportation committee chair Bill Byrnes and Transportation committee member Rob Bates. But despite its unconventional and inauspicious beginnings, a revised version of Turner's resolution was revisited with relative calm at the Board's March 7 meeting.
Turner, the immediate past president of the McLean Citizens Association, drafted her own anti-Metro resolution after her growing concerns led her to the conclude that the Dulles Corridor Metrorail project will heap unfathomable traffic congestion on residents of McLean.
"I have had a long-standing concern about the density planned for Tysons, and I think that what some people have planned for Tysons is not going to benefit some of the people in this room," said Turner. "In fact, it's going to make our quality of life worse instead of better ... I have come to the inescapable conclusion that this Phase I plan for Metro in Tysons has some major problems, and they're all being swept under the carpet."
The resolution presented by Turner at the Feb. 7 Board meeting was three pages of outright opposition to the entire Metrorail project. Since the resolution had not been expected by the other members of the Board of Directors — and given its complicated and controversial nature — the decision was made to create a special sub-committee that would take a month to research and re-draft the resolution for a Board vote at the March 7 meeting. The result was a much more tempered version of Turner's original document, although Turner did submit her own "Minority Report" as an accompaniment to the main resolution.
Board member Dan DuVal chaired the special sub-committee and said that despite the controversy caused by Turner's unexpected presentation of the resolution at the Feb. 7 meeting, he ultimately concluded that it was a topic that merited the ensuing discussion.
"I found it to be worthwhile to take a look at this issue," said DuVal. "It is a very important issue for us ... I consider rail, and the development at Tysons associated with that, to be one of the most important issues facing the residents of McLean for the next 25 years."
THE NEW, more moderate resolution calls for any planned density increases in Tysons Corner to be limited to amounts that will not overburden local road networks, and asks that any Dulles Corridor Metrorail project cost overruns not be funded via tax increases on local residents. The resolution was unanimously approved by the Board, with a few minor changes in language.
However, Turner's "Minority Report" addendum was not as well received. In her report, Turner expressed concerns about the projected ridership for the Tysons Corner Silver Line given the existing overcrowding issues plaguing the already overburdened Orange Line.
"There is very limited capacity of this rail system to accommodate increased ridership," said Turner. "It's not gonna work folks — it's just not gonna work."
Turner said that she feels the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) option was not given serious consideration, and that it should be re-visited prior to the commencement of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail project. Turner also feels that the approval of the overhead rail structure is just one of several problems with the planned project. Subsequently, she said she is not in support of the project, regardless of whether or not an underground tunnel is ever approved for the Tysons segment of the Silver line.
"It just seems to me that before we spend all this money and have complete and absolute gridlock and overburden half of Northern Virginia ... this is maybe a good place to pause and reconsider this project," said Turner.
CRITICS of Turner's viewpoint said that it would be foolhardy of the McLean Citizens Association to suddenly switch its position on a project that has been given the organization's overwhelming support and approval for the last 25 years. Board member Paul Wieland said that Turner's "Minority Report" simply put the Board of Directors in the middle of the same debate that had taken place at its meeting one month earlier. He added that the more temperate resolution that had just been approved would be "diminished tremendously" by Turner's "we don't like it, so stop," report.
"I would be dumbfounded if all the smart people in this area don't realize the limitations of this tunnel," said Wieland.
Board member Rob Bates also felt that Turner's stance was too extreme.
"I think that you're barking up the wrong tree," said Bates. "This is not Metrorail versus BRT. We are going to have to do BRT in addition to Metrorail because Metro is not going to take care of all the transportation issues in Northern Virginia."
Bates said that he felt the "Minority Report" was inappropriate as it was merely Turner's personal opinion.
"You throw out the facts you don't like," said Bates.
Turner's report was voted down by the board.
Stewart Schwartz, president of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, attended the meeting and said he was pleased that the new resolution had replaced Turner's "more hostile earlier resolution." He added that the new resolution was a positive step as it reiterates the McLean Citizens Association's support for Metro, provided that the project includes an underground tunnel in Tysons Corner, and is open to competitive bidding.
"If this project is not open to competitive bidding, I think the reaction from the community is going to be a very poisonous one," said Schwartz.