Opinions differ on the Silver Line’s impact on traffic

Adam Tuss, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – About one week after Loudoun County voted to move forward with the Dulles Rail Project, some county officials have different opinions on how the work will affect traffic.

“The people of Loudoun are due traffic relief. This is not going to relieve traffic on the roads in Loudoun County,” says Board of Supervisors Vice-Chair Janet Clarke.

Clarke voted against the Silver Line and says it will not go to areas of the county that already have high density — places such as Leesburg and South Riding.

But Board of Supervisors Chair Scott York disagrees.

“This does help by allowing over 12,000 riders out of Loudoun County to be on the rail as opposed to on the roads. If you don’t have rail — where are you putting the people? On the roads,” say York.

He says those who don’t believe the project will help with congestion are “full of hooey.”

Planners grapple with the issue all the time, especially with so many places in the area undergoing dramatic changes.

Chris Zimmerman, Arlington County boardmember, says his county’s smart growth policies, which cluster jobs near mass transit and aim for walkable communities, are working.

“The Rosslyn/Ballston corridor has about the same office space as Tysons Corner. It has a fraction of the traffic. It’s done in less space,” Zimmerman says.

Zimmerman says more development doesn’t have to mean more traffic.

“We’ve added something like 15 million square feet since the Orange Line opened to Ballston,” he says. “Yet, we have decade by decade numbers that show at major intersections throughout that corridor, traffic hasn’t depreciated. In some cases, it’s even gone down.”

Last week, the Loudoun County board voted 5-4 to allow work on the second phase of the Dulles Metrorail Project to move forward with two planned stations beyond Dulles International Airport in Loudoun County.

County leaders had expressed concern about the cost of the Silver Line extension, as well as an initial decision by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority – which is building the rail project – to give preference to union labor for the job. The authority last month dropped the controversial pro-union preference.

The total cost for the second phase, which will operate from Reston to Dulles International Airport and continue into Loudoun, is estimated to be around $2.8 billion. Loudoun County is on the hook for about $270 million of that total.

If Loudoun County had pulled out of the project, it essentially would have killed two planned Metro stations at routes 606 and 772 near the Dulles Greenway.

The project’s second phase could be completed in about five years.

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