A Silver Line Train for the Holidays!

It's beginning to look a lot like the Silver Line...


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!

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Keith A. December 19, 2012 at 11:00 PM
And you're aware that every minute of every day of the construction is being recorded by no less than six different cameras?! http://live22.truelook.com/index.jsp?flash=yes&name=/comstock/webcam
Burt Rosenberg December 20, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Plum seems to show no awareness, or even mention, that the Lion's Share of the costs of the Silver Line has been foisted upon the Dulles Toll Road users via ever increasing, unconscionable increases. These must be stopped. Tolls must not be used for projects unrelated to the toll road.
Bob Bruhns December 20, 2012 at 05:01 PM
We kept hearing our so-called 'leaders' saying "Oh, we are looking at ways to lower the tolls." Yet our so-called 'leaders' NEVER called out the cost estimators to demand justification for the double price of the rail job. Their hypnotic chant, "We're looking for ways to lower the tolls, we're looking for ways to lower the tolls," has faded away, as the public fell sound asleep. I'd bet that if any news reporter asked them today, they would say "Oh, well we're looking for ways to lower the tolls." But gee, they never called out the cost estimators. Hmmmm. Later, when the rosy rail promises fail to materialize, and the local roads are jammed to a standstill with toll road refugees, and the ridiculous finance plan fails, people will wonder how this ever happened. But they won't have much time to wonder, because they will be working two or three jobs to pay for this ripoff. Too bad. And now, Transportation Secretary LaHood wants to use this disaster as a model for more disasters all across the country. Now it's time for Democrats and Republicans to start stockpiling talking points, so they can point fingers of blame at each other as the regional dimensions of this disaster become undeniably evident. Yes - as usual, Democrats will blame Republicans, and Republicans will blame Democrats. It's their only tactic. And they will both be right - both parties happily let this happen. The sad thing is that the People won't remember or understand, even then.
Tammi Petrine December 21, 2012 at 05:30 AM
Ken Plum is THE leading villain in the debacle called “The Financing Plan for Metro Silver Line.” He even developed a lobby (hint: dirty word here) with PAID staff called the Dulles Corridor Rail Association to push the concept through and guess what? YEP! You and I, Fairfax and Loudoun County citizens are left holding the bag!!! Bag: that would be “utter” for you non-country folk. The utter of the cash cow: the never-ending, already existing DTR toll system: literally the toll tax meant to fund the maintenance of the DTR. But, hey! The surpluses on that expense are low hanging fruit for OUR elected representatives and suddenly, without referendum, we (DTR users) find ourselves funding the majority of Silver Line Metro. May I add that ONLY the Silver Line leg of Metro is funded like this: every other leg received funding from a broad base INCLUDING Reston/Herndon residents. For some reason, our Fairfax Co. BOS headed by Sharon Bulova can’t see her way clear to spreading the expenses out county-wide. Several other Supervisors have suggested this but Reston’s own Hudgins hasn’t run with that banner to save her/our community.
Tammi Petrine December 21, 2012 at 05:31 AM
Continued: Early in the discussion of the inequity and folly of this egregious plan to rape the apparently blind, deaf and dumb Reston/Herndon/Loudoun taxpayer, our ELECTED politicians feigned hurt feelings that we, a very limited demographic, would object. I kid you not: a former Reston official told me to “put on my big-girl panties” and accept it. MWAA financial executives even told me personally not to worry: the Greenway leads to the DTR which connects directly to the beltway HOT lanes so that the entire corridor would be a toll way. WTH? Like three cracks in the head with a bat was better than only one??? They also said not to worry: if the bonds fail, Fairfax Co. is not liable. Who is? The bond holders. Whew! Who are the bond buyers? Most likely pension funds. Here we go again with a re-do of the fiscal crisis that caused the deepest depression since the 30’s. Our name is not Madoff and I do not want any part of this shill so bond companies have been alerted to the MWAA attitude and financial analysis of the prospect of bonds failing. As soon as citizen analysis yielded results that clearly show that people fleeing the DTR with 40 years of ever rising tolls would clog our environment with fumes and 1,000’s of rogue autos leading to gridlock everywhere. In addition, the fewer remaining deep pockets still using the DTR would make repayment of bonds risky and unlikely. Hmmm… the laws of unintended consequences.
Tammi Petrine December 21, 2012 at 05:32 AM
Continued: Let’s add another: what new business or resident would choose to locate in Reston/Herndon with the ONLY toll access (and EVER ESCALATING) in the entire metro area? I know I sure wouldn’t! So now, to a person, our ELECTED officials are “so very sorry that the tolls will be burdensome and are working to find solutions for alternative funding.” I am so sick of hearing ½ truths: 1. The above statement with absolutely NO new or innovative solutions brought forth in the 2+ years citizens groups have been pleading for relief by any Elected official: Plum, Hudgins, Howell, McDonald, Connolly, Warner, Webb. All commiserate with weepy eyes but offer NOT ONE constructive solution. 2. The celebration of DOT head Ray LaHood for saving this “most important transportation project in the nation.” (How: he took costs from the MWAA column and dumped them on Fairfax County!) 3. The suggestion that TIFIA (low interest loans) may magically become available… (Existing TIFIA funding is so much less than the Silver Line expense alone and every jurisdiction in the nation is completing for it!) So Ken, please curtail your joy at the appearance of the Silver Line passenger cars and get hopping and find REAL solutions for DTR users who will be slapped with even HIGHER TOLLS on January 1st, 2013 – a full year before the Silver Line will be in service and SIX years before it serves Loudoun Co./Dulles. You alone are thrilled. The rest of us are pissed.
Tammi Petrine December 21, 2012 at 05:33 AM
Continued: Expect a big turnout at your Jan. 3rd party at RCC. Hint: This gives you time to organize the forum so that citizens’ opportunities to complain there are limited like no live microphones for constituents, faulty recording equipment, etc. Oh, yeah, and what happened to the statement from your very lips at last year’s Jan. community meeting when you said that the “$300 million contribution from the State (Virginia) would be a yearly contribution.” We can’t seem to see that happening or where you got that information. So far we have only seen $150 million promised with massive conditions. To add insult to injury, all promised monies are being used by the Mensas who “planned” this project to buy down tolls vs. using the funds to lower cost… anything to assuage a furious public who are unveiling Oz’s tower. Public: I urge you to attend Kenny’s January meeting and let him know how thrilled we are with his devotion to his constituents. Ken, be sure to pack the audience with your DCRA buddies. THEY for sure are happy with you… until they catch a clue and realize that their corridor properties will depreciate when new businesses locate anywhere else that does not require access by tolls; that would be ANYWHERE else in the Metro region. That and sequestration should be a fine boost to the Dulles Corridor already experiencing an 18% commercial vacancy rate. See ya January 3rd.
Skip Endale December 21, 2012 at 04:28 PM
I am hopeful that the train coming here will reduce some of the traffic gridlock. We shall see... I am also hopeful that the effect that the 3 billion shortfall that FFX county transportation faces is somewhat dampened; that is if people choose public transportation over using their car. For these hopes to come true we need good public servants, like Ken and Ray. Happy Holidays
novatom December 21, 2012 at 05:31 PM
My hunch is that they want to make the tolls painfully high so people will find the option of a round trip $10 metro ride into DC (which has become downright hostile to anyone from outside the district bringing their cars into the city), more economical.
Tammi Petrine December 21, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Tom, I can't imagine that anyone who could would NOT use Metro. My husband does and will continue to do so. It is so much easier on the stress levels than battling traffic. However, many, many commuter CAN NOT use Metro. It doesn't fit their locations or accomodate their tools, children, etc. There are a number of reasons. Punishing the already burdened with astronomical tolls is counter-intuitive to making the Dulles Corridor a viable, vibrant region that attacks great companies and residents.
Terry Maynard December 21, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Actually, Skip, because the tolls will rise so much (per MWAA's toll forecaster), a substantial and growing share of DTR traffic will divert to local roads--up to almost 30% in the out years. By Reston 2020 count, those diversions could add 30K trips per day to local roads early on (~2015), about 1/3 of them to Reston streets, and more than 100K trips per day ca. 2050 when tolls are at $18.75 full one-way toll. Please note that these calculations are based on MWAA's data, not something R2020 made up on its own.
Terry Maynard December 21, 2012 at 06:21 PM
A further point: If Reston is allowed to develop as local developers would like (per the Reston Task Force's "Scenario E"), FC transportation staff say we can expect 3-1/2 to 4 minute delays during the evening peak period at key Reston Pkwy and Wiehle intersections by 2030. And that's IF the County adds all the road improvements it has planned--a so-called "full build"--including three additional crossings of the DTR (Soapstone-Sunset Hills--now under study, Town Center Pkwy-Halley, & South Lakes Dr-Business Center drive). Even the County staff says that is UNACCEPTABLE.
Bob Bruhns December 21, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Meanwhile, everybody is whistling and looking the other way, while the cost is two times what it should be, and we have to pay finance charges on the money we need to borrow in order to pay that double price.
Laurie Dodd December 24, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Wow, Tammi, do you really expect anyone to read this whole thing? With its claims of taxpayer rape, etc.? Perhaps you should grow up a bit.
Just the Facts December 24, 2012 at 05:32 PM
MWAA articles of 220 million no bid contracts, lavish pay increases, Super Bowl tickets to employees, Board members receiving lavish contracts, governor playing political games, all cost this project dearly. When are we going to ask for the removal of Potter, Curto and Davis? These people are playing with our money and we just keep paying the bills.
Gene December 25, 2012 at 12:47 PM
The Silver Line cold have been a gift bt it has turned into something else entirely. In addition to the tolls every week we learn of more re-development that is going to add more denisty, more residents, more traffic, and higher taxes. I really have no idea where all these people are going to shop, eat, park and no where do I see any efforts to do some smart things like re-develop Tall Oaks, Lake Anne and fill empty office buildings. It's just build, build. Sad that this is happening and there is nothing we can do about it. The Golf Course is next just watch. - Gene


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