Del. Ken Plum: Mission Accomplished

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

The Dulles Corridor Rail Association (DCRA) Board of Directors voted last week to merge with the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance (NVTA) to represent transportation interests for the region.

As founder of DCRA I felt some sadness at the consolidation of the organization into another entity with a broader purpose, but at the same time I was very pleased with the greater meaning of the merger. On the one hand the merger represented “mission accomplished” for DCRA, and on the other hand it reflected a greater appreciation of the need for a multimodal transportation system for our region.

DCRA was founded in 1998 after conversations I had with members of the Reston Transportation Committee, area residents and members of the business community. My concern that I found was shared by many others was that road building alone would not meet the long-term needs of the region and specifically Reston located in the middle of the corridor.

Short-term solutions like widening roads, adding buses or bus rapid transit or light rail trains could be short-term fixes some of which would interfere with adding more substantial infrastructure in the future. The ensuing years were filled with much debate, fits and starts, and ups and downs before an extension of Metro from West Falls Church into Loudoun County was finally approved as the preferred local alternative, federal funds were approved, special tax districts were set up, and agreements and contracts were signed to make the Silver Line a reality.

For DCRA members the completion of Phase 1 and its operation and the contracting for Phase 2 to be completed by 2020 meant that the work on its narrowly drawn mission had been completed. While issues about maximizing the use of the rail system and access to it remain to be fine-tuned, those matters are best resolved within the framework of a multimodal approach. Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance has moved beyond its road building focus of the past to a more multimodal approach that will support the Silver Line while at the same time reducing congestion and supporting the many different ways that people in our community choose to travel.

DCRA would never have been able to declare victory without the active support of the many individuals, organizations and businesses that supported its mission. They joined together in the “Dulles Rail Now!” campaign at a critically important time, in the beginning sent faxes to key decision makers followed by email in more recent years, held educational seminars for residents and the business community to enhance understanding of transit-oriented development, and cajoled, flattered and persuaded political leaders to support the project.

Key to its successful operation was its president Patty Nicoson who joined the organization at its very beginning and continued with it until its victory celebration. She came to the organization with experience as a planner when Metro first came to the District of Columbia and later worked for Arlington County when Metro arrived there. Her persistent but reasoned approach may have been the most important element of DCRA completing its mission.

Each year I survey constituents on issues of concern to them and on issues that are likely to be considered by the General Assembly. Your views are important to me. Please take a few minutes to respond to the survey that can be found at www.kenplum.com.

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