Del. Ken Plum: Silver Line No Silver Bullet

by Del. Ken Plum July 2, 2014 at 1:30 pm 3 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThe Silver Line Metrorail extension will open for riders on July 26! For those of us who have been looking at the seemingly completed infrastructure for many months, announcement of the actual date that we can ride this important new service for our community is welcome news.

Having worked on bringing Metrorail to Reston and beyond for the last 20 years, I am especially excited about the opening. In the 1990s, I was the lone politician calling for rail service in the Dulles Corridor while some dismissed the idea as a pipe dream.

In order to develop support for the rail project, I enlisted the help of business and community leaders who supported the idea. In August 1998, I announced the formation of the Dulles Corridor Rail Association (DCRA) as a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group supporting rail in the Dulles Corridor. Joining in the announcement were professional planner Patty Nicoson, who became president of the group and continues in that capacity today; former Delegate Vincent Callahan, who demonstrated bipartisan representation; former Virginia Secretary of Transportation John Milliken; and Restonians Joe Stowers and Steve Cerny, among others.

We set to work, with letters and opinion columns, testimony at public hearings and a variety of advocacy activities that built support for the project. The task was not easy and not without setbacks. While there was widespread agreement about the need for more public transit options in a metropolitan area that had outgrown its transit service planned for in the 1960s, we had to convince some elected leaders that rail was justified over simply expanded bus service or bus rapid transit.

The idea of putting the extension in a tunnel sounded attractive, but was cost prohibitive. Commercial interests were agreeable to additional taxes to help pay for the system, but the project had to be broken into two phases to accommodate when a business interest would start paying an additional tax and when they would receive service. Toll increases on commuters were projected to be unbearably high requiring DCRA to successfully lobby for more direct state appropriations to keep tolls down.

With no direct financial support for the project and a 2010 goal to deliver a completed system, the 30 men and women who made up the original board and those who have joined and left since that time are to be thanked and congratulated. I am honored to continue to serve as chairman of the board of DCRA.

The Silver Line will not be a silver bullet to solve all our transportation woes. We still live in an area ranked 10th in the country for the worst traffic! Rail and bus riders will be asked to make adjustments; drivers may have to change their commuting habits; and some will complain about tolls and fares. Even so, the Silver Line brings a critically important part of infrastructure to our area that will add to our quality of life in getting to and from work and taking advantage of the rich educational and cultural resources of our region and our nation’s capital.

Ken Plum represents Reston in the Virginia House of Delegates

  • Dave

    Wow! Talk about a self-serving article, there are at least 5 instances of our delegate or his group taking the credit for saving the day. What about the delays, cost overruns, and allegations of mismanagement is our Delegate taking credit for those too?

  • Mike M

    Ken, if you want to take credit for bringing Metro to Reston, I hope you wil take credit for the astronomical increases in the tolls we have to pay for the use of VA 267. Can you own that? Can you do something about it?

    I give you credit for the toll increases. Thanks for that! I’ve always felt that sending you to represent us in Richmond was like sending a possdle to a pit bull party. How am I wrong?

  • Anonymous

    Its difficult to understand your message, Ken, because you do not provide the facts.

    Fact is, on average, 327000+ cars are taking the toll road daily. So coming and going that is $5.oo for every vehicle, coming and going – totalling a cool 1.5 million dollars a day. And that is despite the fact that the toll road should have been paid off by now, paid for itself many times over, and probably should yield dividends to the locals.

    Regardless before the toll hike, the toll road should have still netted a cool million+ a day. So you are saying even with this large revenue stream that the new train system cannot be paid for?

    You are sending a very brutal message to your constituents. It worries me that someone that has fought for 20 years for this project still has no clear grasp of what needs to be done financially.

    It worries me that 238 years later we are celebrating Independence Day, a victory over our own people, the British. Basically killed them over what was perceived to be excessive taxing, the first Global Economy. Who should we kill now? And when should it stop?

    Your blog is quite frankly, depressing. I expected more from someone, someone that has been fighting this thing for “20 years”. Maybe its time to clean house and bring in some young blood. This is really bull.


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