There are many legends in America that transcend generations through myth and folklore. There’s Bigfoot in the wilderness country of the great Northwest, Chessie, the Chesapeake Bay’s version of the Loch Ness Monster, and rail to Dulles.
When regional officials cleared land on the edge of Loudoun County five decades ago to build Dulles International Airport, the goal was that this airline hub would some day be connected to the Washington, D.C., mass transit system.
Plans for Dulles transit rail dates back to the 1960s when plans were made for Washington’s Metro Rail. Unfortunately, rail expansion never caught up with ambitious plans to develop Dulles and the surrounding business communities. Apparently it’s easier to construct buildings and more roads than a single rail line from Washington, D.C.
The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation has decided to push back projections for rail to Dulles another five years with a completion estimate now reaching 2015. Since first plans for Dulles rail began 40 years ago, the delay is enormous. It’s sort of like President William McKinley promising in 1898 that an interstate network of horse trails would be complete by 1950.
It just makes us wonder if Metro Rail will be a vibrant mass transit system with regional relevance in 2015?
The main problem with Metro to Dulles has been a lack of funding. Such a big project depends heavily on federal money. Transportation officials in the Bush administration have called the rail to Dulles project what it is: Over priced and under used.
Therefore, Virginia transit officials are prepared to begin campaigning for Plan B. This would be Metro’s “Silver Line” as in silver lining to this dark cloud hovering over the rail to Dulles dream.
The Silver Line would bring Metro from West Falls Church to Wiehle Avenue in Reston with stops along the way in Tysons Corner. With limited prospects of gaining federal funding to support the entire 23-mile trek to Dulles, state transit officials are willing to take the baby steps approach by building Metro out to Reston.
The $1.5 billion cost of rail to Reston would be split with the feds picking up half the cost while the state and localities pay the rest through tolls, taxing districts and other taxes. It all depends on whether the federal government gives its approval.
One thing is for certain. With all the pie in the sky dreams of rail to Dulles, it’s better to get half the pie than none at all. Perhaps this week’s decision to delay (once again) rail to Dulles will finally help secure funding and planning for half that objective.