Was Building the Silver Line a Mistake? One Post Writer Makes the Case

by Karen Goff June 9, 2016 at 11:30 am 27 Comments

Wiehle-Reston East Metro areaImagine a Reston without the Silver Line. Not that difficult, since it has only been open for less than two years and the extension from Reston Town Center to Loudoun County won’t open until 2020.

A Washington Post reporter says it should never have been built. In an opinion column published Wednesday, Fredrick Kunkle summarized what a lot of area residents have been thinking this week: Metro should have fixed what it had before embarking on this $2.9 billion project.

Silver Line riders were among the most affected as Metro rolled out its SafeTrack program this week. The program, which aims to complete three years work of needed repairs in about 10 months, will involve 15 “Safety Surges,” which means single tracking, delays and other shutdowns.

The first surge means delays, crowded cars and other general chaos from Wiehle-Reston East (Silver) to Ballston (Silver/Orange/Blue) and beyond until June 16.

Writes Kunkle: “The argument goes that Metro’s leadership should have focused instead on overhauling and upgrading the nearly 40-year-old system before adding a new line in Northern Virginia. The Silver Line was a project either years before its time — or too late. And now there are plenty of people around eager to say, I told you so.”

He points out that Silver Line ridership has been below predictions and construction blew its budget, among other issues.

Among those disagreeing with him: Fairfax County Supervisor Chair Sharon Bulova, who says the Silver Line has not been a drag on Metro’s other resources. She adds that there were plans for the line going back to the 1960s; that funding came from wide resources (not just local taxpayers); and that it has sparked commercial and residential growth in the county (including a major boom in Reston).

Washingtonian also points out the flaws in The Post’s reasoning in this piece.

“There’s a lot about the Silver Line that could have been handled differently — the timing, the quality of the construction work, the ridership expectations. But ditching it entirely? That would be the greatest error,” writes Washingtonian’s Benjamin Freed.

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