Commentary: Silver Line Access

Commentary: Silver Line Access

Construction on the Silver Line, the extension of Metrorail in the Dulles corridor, will be completed for its first phase to Wiehle Avenue by August 2013. After extensive testing by its operator, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), the line will start carrying passengers by December 2013. Reston riders will be able to go to Tysons, Arlington, downtown, or as far as Largo, Md.—without getting out of their seats. As exciting as the prospects are for mass transit into and out of our community, there is an understandable level of apprehension and concern about access to the rail line and its impact on the community.

There is no question that the impact on the community will be significant. Property values will increase. The demand for housing near the stations will increase. Unfortunately there is likely to be a negative impact on the flow of traffic in the areas of the stations in the short run. I have been satisfied that the responsible agencies are hard at work to re-direct bus routes, widen streets and develop plans that will ensure safe and timely access to Wiehle Station for drivers, bus riders, bikers and pedestrians. Recent community meetings have provided information to citizens on the work being done and very importantly gave commuters the opportunity to suggest to staff ways that plans can be improved. There will definitely be a settling-in period until this incredible project is integrated into the community. I will work to ensure that agencies at all levels of government monitor the situation closely and be willing to make necessary adjustments to improve it.

We have the advantage of being next door to Arlington County, which is often cited as one of the most successful in the country in the application of transit-oriented development (TOD). Arlington’s experience is that the arrival of Metro brought with it a boom in economic development and new jobs. It also brought with it an increasing population of young professionals who sought an urban environment in which to live. The Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor is the response to these changes. Go a block from the corridor and you are back in the single-family neighborhoods of earlier Arlington. At the same time that Arlington’s population and employment jumped 40 percent over the past three decades, a recent report found that traffic on major arteries like Wilson and Arlington Boulevards has increased at a much lower rate or even declined. In 2012, Arlington County Commuter Service was able to shift 45,000 car trips each workday from a solo-driven car to some other form of transportation.

Building on the example of places like Arlington and Portland, Ore., and with the cooperation of the very savvy people of Reston, I believe that we will be able to take maximum advantage of the new transportation option we will have with the Silver Line and will be able to improve access and enhance the quality of life in our community.