RESTON, Va. – Some Reston residents are worried that the opening the first phase of Metro’s Silver Line will make traffic worse near one of the stations scheduled to open at the end of the year.
The concern is that extra cars parking at the Wiehle-Reston East station’s 2,300 space parking garage could further choke traffic on Wiehle Avenue.
“It’s already a focal point for congestion because of the Dulles Toll Road next to it,” says Terry Maynard, with the Reston Citizens Association.
“This situation with more cars coming there to park for Metrorail will make a bad situation worse.”
Parking garages of that size aren’t uncommon in the Metro system. For example, the New Carrollton station at the end of the Orange Line has a garage with 3,519 spaces.
“I live one block from Wiehle Avenue, and I don’t think it’s going to have any more gridlock than we have today,” says Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins.
“Will there be some hard days in the beginning? I think you’re right. But the larger part of the message is that it’s an asset coming here.”
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is currently working on projects to help ease congestion.
“These improvements include roadway expansions and the addition of turning lanes to facilitate the movement of traffic in areas near Silver Line stations and, in the case of Phase 1, the addition of temporary bus bays to the north side of Wiehle from the eastbound Dulles Toll Road,” says Nick Perfili, Dulles Rail planner for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.
Perfili says the level of service grade at the Wiehle Avenue and Sunrise Valley Drive intersection is currently a “D.” He says the planned improvement would keep the intersection at its current grade. Without any improvements, it is projected that the intersection would get an “F.”
The level of service measure grades intersections on an “A” to “F” scale based on traffic flows, wait times, and the space between vehicles. Level A is wide-open and Level F is total gridlock.
However, Maynard doubts the improvements would have any effect on traffic.
“And it will get worse as more people and jobs come to this area of Reston,” says Maynard.
Fairfax officials hope adding 15 new Fairfax Connector routes in Reston will encourage more people to ditch their cars. The routes for the buses are still being finalized.
“The more cars we take off the road, the better. Each Silver Line train that leaves will take nearly 1,000 people, and that is 1,000 cars off the road, every 6 to 10 minutes,” says Hudgins.
But critics point out that Fairfax Connector buses are subject to the same traffic as everyone else in the morning and evening rush.
The Reston Citizens Association has made a suggestion to lessen the traffic burden around the station, by lessening the ridership burden on the station. However, the Metropolitan Airports Authority says their suggestion is not possible.
Tammi Petrine of the Reston Citizens Association recently suggested opening Phase 2 stations of the Silver Line as it is finished, rather than opening it all at once.
Petrine argues that building from Reston out to Loudoun County sequentially would help slowly ease the traffic on Wiehle Avenue.
“If the building of Phase 2 could begin at Wiehle and proceed to west, the next two stations, Reston Town Center and Herndon-Monroe, could be built and opened earlier than now forecast,” says Petrine in a statement to the Reston Master Planning Task Force in late January.
“Spreading the entire load of commuters who would be forced to use only the desperately compromised Wiehle station over to three stations sooner would spread the traffic burden.”
However, MWAA spokeswoman Marcia McAllister says it is impossible to open station by station, unless a rail yard is built along with each station as it is opened.
“The phases were designed this way to ensure the continuity of the operating systems,” says McAllister.
“The Wiehle-Reston East Station is designed to be a temporary terminus station and includes tail tracks for storage of rail cars.”
Phase 2 of the Silver Line is tentatively schedules to open in 2018, although the current debate in Richmond over transportation funding could play a role in the timeline.