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A Silver Line Train for the Holidays

As I drove across the Wiehle Avenue Bridge over the Dulles Access Road a couple of weeks ago, I was sure I saw a Metro railcar on the brand new Silver Line tracks. I hurried to the post office and returned to the scene, parked my car in a nearby lot, and walked to the bridge to record the historic moment. By then it was dusk, and search as I might I could not find a railcar. I began to doubt myself. Had I worked on the project so long that I was seeing things? It was a day later that I saw a photograph someone had taken from his car on the Toll Road that showed the mystery railcar. I was right all along that a Metro railcar had indeed been on the tracks. The engineers tell me it was a “clearance car” to check construction to ensure that as the train moves and sways it will not hit anything.

There are going to be more sightings of railcars in the future as construction of the rail line is expected to be completed late next summer with the actual opening date to be set by WMATA for late 2013 or early 2014, depending on the completion of its operational tests. We can always hope for a real train next Christmas.

Of course, the opening of the Silver Line to Wiehle Avenue is but Phase One of a rail line that will go to a stop at Reston Town Center and beyond to Dulles International Airport and two stops into Loudoun County. While the engineering and construction of Phase One has been a marvel, even more remarkable might be the coming together of jurisdictions and a financial plan for Phase Two that took an extreme amount of effort and is itself a marvel.

Central to making Phase Two happen was the leadership of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. At the recent annual meeting of the Dulles Corridor Rail Association I was pleased on behalf of the board to recognize the leadership of Secretary LaHood in bringing together the leaders of local governments and the state to agree on moving the project forward with additional state and federal monies. Secretary LaHood kept the parties at the table until an agreement was reached.

Recently the secretary wrote about the Silver Line Project, “When it comes to transportation, there is no time like the present to invest in the future. Transportation projects take time to complete, and they endure for generations. Because the impacts of these projects extend so far into the future, the infrastructure choices we make today have huge consequences for our nation’s ability to reduce oil consumption, increase safety, preserve air quality, improve public health, and keep more money in people's wallets. . . . The Silver Line will be a gateway to enormous opportunity and will help us meet the needs of 21st century residents, workers, and visitors for years to come. In fact, earlier this year Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell called this rail transit line, ‘one of the most important, if not the most important, project in the country.’ And last month, the Silver Line was endorsed by the Sierra Club as one of the best projects in America.”

The Silver Line is quite a holiday present for the region!