Friday, September 17, 2010

Silver Line Construction to Commence this Fall


Photo courtesy of Washingtonpost.com, Breaking News Blog

The Washington Post reports that the newest DC-metro area metro line, the Silver Line, will begin construction of Phase 1 this fall. The two-phased project (outlined above) is scheduled for completion in 2016.

According to WaPo's breaking news blog Phase 1 of project will link the existing East Falls Church Metro station to Tyson's Corner, terminating at Wiehle Avenue in Reston, Va. Phase 2 will pick up where the Phase 1 construction left off in Reston, working it's way out to Dulles Airport over the subsequent 3 years. Phase 2, clocking in at an estimated $3.83 billion, is considerably more expensive than Phase 1 ($2.76 billion). Part of this increased cost is associated with building a two-mile tunnel and underground station to service the Dulles Airport. A breakdown of the Phase 1 and Phase 2 costs is listed on the second page of this press release from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, as published by the Washington Post.

Dan Malouff, of Beyond DC, argues against the multi-billion dollar second phase of the Silver Line's construction. While Phase 1, he argues, will help tame the jungle of office buildings and haphazard development that is Tysons, he posits that Phase 2 will primarily consist of park-and-ride stations that do little to mitigate the area's transportation nightmare. Malouff argues for a less expensive, more extensive network of streetcars, possibly paired with a rapid bus transit line to Dulles.

While I agree with Malouff that park-and-ride stations can be problematic, especially from an aesthetic standpoint, I have to think that his concerns will predominantly fall on deaf ears. While a streetcar system would be more easily used by intermediate travellers, I have to think that the current Silver Line plan (like all of WMATA's lines) is planned to accomodate suburban residents travelling long distances to downtown-DC jobs (hence, the spoke and hub shape of DC's metro system). Dulles has also thrown clout and money behind getting the line extended all the way out to the airport, so I seriously doubt they'd settle for a bus stop instead (rapid transit or not).

He's not wrong, of course. The extended DC metro area would be greatly served by an intricate infrastructure of public transportation. However, I think for now, we're going to have to wait for the post-Silver Line realization that this new metro line, while beneficial, is not the area's public transportation panacea.

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