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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.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    The Silver line is a good thing. The subsequent residential and commercial development is not.

    • Tom

      You can’t have one without the other unfortunately.

      • Mike M

        Actually that’s mythology. Truth is, we “needed” neither.

        • M Mike

          The Silver Line never would have been built if there weren’t reasonable assurances that development would occur around the stations and vice versa.

          • Mike M

            Assurances between whom? And why?

  • Fly2get

    I proposed that we mwaa has their own line to the airport, magnetic levitating high speed service that is essentially an elite service to the airport with stops in tysons, reston, and ashburn.

    Other cities doing this: rome, frankfurt, bangkog, hong kong, oslo

    Silver line, big mistake. Essentially a food fight between the state and local govt.

    • And I want flying cars

      Where would the eastern terminal be? Metro Center? Union Station? How/where do you propose putting these high-speed rail tracks in DC, across the river, and through Arlington? I’m just asking logistics here and won’t even ask about the cost of such a project.

      • Chuck Morningwood

        Along the W&OD, right where a train should be.

  • Reston.All.Grown.Up

    Who is making the decisions? Politicians and Developers. I’m sure they get a chuckle reading articles like this.

    • Mike M

      Let’s see, . . . We bought something we probably shouldn’t have, in the pursuit of vague ideals, in the face of countervailing realities, at a ridiculous price we’ll be paying for years, the situation is unsustainable, . . . Where have I see that before? Could there be a correlation between L-wordism and this sort of behavior? I think so. I wish all my ever-so-bright-and-accomplished neighbors would rethink their ideals. Too bad one political party has a lock on our region. I think we’d have more responsible government if we mixed it up a little bit.

      • Reston.All.Grown.Up

        Mike,
        Stop lambasting us with common sense!!! It’s not going to work!!! We need vague ideals, less transparency, unattainable, unsustainable realities to help shape our vision of the future!!

      • Chuck Morningwood

        Seems to me that the R-Word and the C-Word aren’t much better about this kind of activity either.

        • Mike M

          Really? I haven’t seen a GOP candidate in these parts since Bobbie Dix. Long time ago. I am not saying we need to choose. I am saying they need to have competition. By the way, we’ll have to disagree that Cs can’t manage better than Ls. But we might agree that C does not equal R. In fact, I think the Rs are having a serious identity crisis at the moment.

          • OhWhoaIsMe

            All these C and L and R to bypass some filter. Let’s just call R what it is, a Racist plain and simple.

          • Mike M

            Brilliant! Then you don’t have to listen to their points because you have declared them a nasty! Well done. Where did you learn your debating skills. UC Berkley?

          • JoeInReston

            So Mike, its incorrect to make a gross generalization on large set of people?

            I would agree.

    • Chuck Morningwood

      Laughing all the way to the bank.

  • concordpoint

    Original idea of rail to Dulles-good. Letting Tyson’s interests take it out of the Right of way and add 4 stops in Tysons-Bad. Have everyone who drives the Toll Road pay jacked up tolls to pay for a portion of it-beyond bad;

    • True, Bob Simon personally told me that it was a mistake to use his words “dog leg it around Tysons.” He said that it would cost an extra billion dollars and that would come back to “haunt us.”
      And he said that members of the board of supervisors had business or personal relationships with companies that made big bucks by jack legging the S Line through Tysons rather than run it straight up the the center of the Dulles Toll Road with two stops in Tysons. So it cost an extra billion or so and delayed the completion for more than two years and some people got big bucks by working that out. Now we all will pay for decades to come.
      Maybe we ought to pull a Donald T deal and just let it go into foreclosure and let someone else cough up the money.

  • Overrunhell

    Love people who Monday-morning quarterback. They never focus on new courses of action, rather they harp on how much they now know and how important they are. Worthless.

  • RoadApples

    Dedicated lanes for high speed buses would have worked fine; at a fraction of the cost.

  • Greg

    Of course the silver line should never have been built — especially the elevated eyesore in the place called Tysons. Just wait until it all starts falling apart in 10 years and the one tunnel fails or both. $6 billion and climbing. And, It will still be a very long walk to the Dulles terminal from the Dulles silver line station (despite the fact that space for a Dulles metro station in the terminal was set aside during the 1990s expansion — more money wasted).

  • Greg

    Alarms were sounded as far back as 2001:

    “The [Northern Virginia Transportation] Alliance noted that much discussion today revolves around the lack of stewardship and responsible oversight of Metro. “When completed in 2001, the original 103-mile Metrorail system was considered world class. Repeated warning[s] of maintenance backlogs were ignored. Fifteen years later Metro is a mess.”

  • John Farrell

    $2.9 billion would have gone a long way toward building one of the 4 missing bridges which would have done a great deal more to alleviate congestion around here than the Silver line.

  • EliteinReston

    Here’s a radical idea: why not repair the system you have while at the same time build the Silver Line? The region was not offered a choice between one or the other. The case for SafeTrack had not been made. The fatal crash had not occurred when the Silver Line was getting decided. However, there WAS another choice offered to the region that got rejected. Rep. Frank Wolf wanted to build a bus rapid transit system of dedicated express lanes essentially running along the same route as the Silver Line. It would have been cheaper and faster to build and easier to maintain. He was rejected in part because heavy rail is “sexier” with commuters and favored by developers. I’m not saying he was right or wrong, but he did present a choice. Btw, the Post reporter lives in Maryland. I don’t hear people in that state saying let’s fix what we have before we build the Purple Line.

  • Bob Simon personally told me that it was a mistake to use his words “dog
    leg it around Tysons.” He said that it would cost an extra billion
    dollars and that would come back to “haunt us.”
    And he said that
    members of the board of supervisors had business or personal
    relationships with companies that made big bucks by jack legging the S
    Line through Tysons rather than run it straight up the the center of
    the Dulles Toll Road with two stops in Tysons. So it cost an extra
    billion or so and delayed the completion for more than two years and
    some people got big bucks by working that out. Now we all will pay for
    decades to come.
    Maybe we ought to pull a Donald T deal and just let it go into foreclosure and let someone else cough up the money.

  • reston is changing

    I love the metro! It’s great!!!

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