The Dulles Corridor Rail Association (DCRA) celebrated its 14th anniversary this month. On Aug. 3, 1998, I held a press conference at the Sheraton Reston Hotel to announce formation of the organization. My action came after many years of singular effort to get other elected officials, government agencies and the public interested in transportation alternatives in the Dulles Corridor. The building of the Dulles Toll Road and its subsequent widening convinced me that automobile-only solutions were not going to be adequate for the high growth and economic development that were occurring in the corridor. The toll road filled up as quickly as it was built and widened.
I announced my plan to bring together community and business leaders and interested persons to advocate for mass transit alternatives in the Dulles Corridor at a meeting of the Reston Transportation Committee at Lake Anne Elementary School in early 1998. By Aug., I had assembled the first board, whose members were introduced at the press conference on Aug. 3. Patty Nicoson, a prominent Reston resident who had worked professionally as a planner for both the District of Columbia and Arlington County governments when the metro came to those communities, became president of the board of DCRA. Joe Stowers, another local resident who is a professional transportation planner, became the secretary to the board. Both continue in those roles as I do as chairman of the board of DCRA. The mission of DCRA was defined as being advocates for a rail alternative in the corridor.
Since federal dollars were going to be used in any project in the corridor, major and lengthy studies of financial feasibility and environmental impact had to be conducted. The governor of Virginia established a task force that helped to coordinate a response to the federal requirements. After consideration of bus and bus rapid transit along with light and heavy rail alternatives, the decision was to go with an extension of the current metro system.
Throughout the last 14 years there were several pronouncements of the project’s demise. On each of those occasions, DCRA got interested parties together, demonstrated community support and carried out a campaign of advocacy. The association organized a coalition of business and community groups in a Dulles Rail Now advocacy campaign for phase one. It helped organize a Loudoun Rail Now campaign for phase two. Endless meetings were held and advocacy activities undertaken to keep the rail project “on track.”
For those who have been involved in the details of advocacy for the project, it is difficult to believe the reality that phase one will open and be carrying passengers in one year. By the end of this year, phase two will be under contract. All associated with DCRA are pleased with the part that we have played in making this project a reality.