All Aboard!

All Aboard!

The latest word is that the second phase of the Metrorail Silver Line from the Wiehle-Reston East Station to the Route 606 Station in Loudoun County will open this fall. It was originally slated to open in 2018, but a number of hiccups related to construction delayed the project. Many of us will breathe a deep sigh of relief for the completion of a project that has taken decades of our effort. The work will have been worth it. As the Washington Post editorialized in 2005, the Silver Line will “stitch together an incongruent edge city whose future is integral to the region’s.” 

My direct involvement with the project that for some periods of time became an almost full-time job began in 1989 when the Transportation Committee of the Reston Association asked me to meet with them to advise them of my thoughts on how the long-term challenges of getting in and out of Reston might be solved. I was a long-term believer that mass transit had to be part of the answer with my belief that an extension of Metrorail was the best solution for Reston and for Dulles Airport. I knew that the Committee chaired by urban planner and transportation expert Patty Nicoson and membership including transportation planning expert Joe Stowers would not be satisfied with a too-generalized and simplistic answer. I advised them that I was going to establish an organization made up of community and business leaders with whom I would work to advocate for an extension of Metrorail in the Dulles Corridor. The organization became the Dulles Corridor Rail Association (DCRA)—I chaired its Board and Patty Nicoson became Executive Director for nearly two decades until the project was approved and underway.

I anticipate that the ride on the Silver Line will be a smooth one extending from Ashburn in Loudoun County past Dulles Airport, Reston and Tysons Corner into the District of Columbia and Maryland with no need to get out of your seat. The years getting official approvals and agreed-upon details were more like a roller coaster ride, however. DCRA had a professional survey conducted that showed 93 percent support for the project, but the federal administration at the time was backing away from costly mass transit ventures. The late Senator John Warner and then Governor Tim Kaine and Congressman Frank Wolfe provided critical and timely support. DCRA organized dozens of citizens, businesses, and organizations in a “Dulles Rail Now” advocacy effort. There were debates on alignment, over or under in Tysons Corner, financing alternatives, and other issues. Supervision for building the project was assigned to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) as it had experience with large project management with the airport expansions. Metro that operates the entire subway and bus system for the region will operate the extension as an integral part of the system.

With the opening of Phase One of the Silver Line and contracts approved for Phase Two, DCRA recognized that its mission had been accomplished, and it merged with the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance in 2017. I am relieved that we seem to be past the delays. See you on board Metro in the near future!