Fairfax Connector unveils revised plan for Silver Line

Fairfax Connector officials unveil new plan for Reston customers on the Silver Line. (WTOP/Ari Ashe)

RESTON, Va. – At a public meeting Thursday, Fairfax Connector officials unveiled a revised plan to provide enhanced service to Reston customers when the Silver Line opens at the end of 2013.

“The main goal is to get people to the stations in Tysons Corner and Reston without necessarily getting in their car,” said Tom Biesiandy, director of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

The revised plan includes 14 new routes and 4 RIBs routes for Reston residents.

Many who attended the meeting were pleased with the changes to the initial plan, although some had concerns about parking.

“There are not enough spots for people living in Great Falls, Sterling and Herndon. I can see people from there sitting in traffic on Wiehle Avenue, driving to the Wiehle-Reston East station. Other people will be scurrying around, maybe parking along the street near someone’s home,” said Therese Martin of Reston.

Barbara Stowe, also of Reston, says, “I’m afraid people may park in my driveway because I live that close (to a parking lot).”

Dick Rogers is with the Reston Citizens Association, “At Golf Course Island, about three-quarters of a mile from the new station, we’ve always had a liberal parking regulation.”

“But we’re probably going to institute a parking permit program because of the Metro.”

The parking concern revolves around the Sunset Hills Park & Ride, which opened when a parking lot at the current Wiehle-Reston East station closed during construction. Under a deal with the private developer, Fairfax County will turn back over the 603 spots when the Silver Line opens. Drivers who usually park there will need to find someplace else.

“Remember, these people are already driving to this parking lot now. So they’ll be driving to the Wiehle station like they did before Silver Line construction,” says Biesiandy.

When the Silver Line opens, the Wiehle-Reston East station will have a 2,300 space garage. However, the Reston Citizens Association is worried about the traffic impact on an already heavily congested Wiehle Avenue. A recent Fairfax County Department of Transportation analysis for traffic in Reston in 2030 graded the worst intersection as an “F.”

“We are closely looking at the Wiehle-Sunset Hills intersection. The study you’re referring to is still underway and we’re still looking at it and figuring out how to address it,” said Biesiandy.

He also urged drivers consider using the Herndon-Monroe Park & Ride and the Reston South lot to help take cars off Wiehle Avenue.

Meanwhile, a compromise plan to keep the Pentagon express bus appeared to draw no resistance from anyone at the meeting. Pentagon workers turned out and vocally opposed the initial plan to completely eliminate the route.

Under the compromise, 23 daily one-way trips would be reduced to 14, with three buses eliminated.

The new route would also combine the existing Connector 595 and 597 into one 599 route.

“It’s going to work. It’s going to be different with the times, but we’ll just have to adjust it and figure out the best times to leave the house,” says Mary Czernowski of Herndon.

Her only worry is that buses will become standing room only, posing a safety risk to passengers if the bus makes a sudden stop. Transportation officials said they would closely monitor the issue and make changes to prevent any safety risks.

Biesiandy also urged Pentagon workers consider using the Silver Line, pointing to a Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority estimate that a trip from Wiehle- Reston East to the Pentagon wouldn’t take too much longer than an express bus. Most riders disagree with those projections because of the overcrowding in the tunnel near Rosslyn.

Fairfax County transportation officials have been trying to balance competing interests on the Pentagon bus service issue. Fairfax Supervisor Cathy Hudgins has been pushing the Silver Line solution, whereas Supervisor John Foust notes that Pentagon workers would more likely drive alone to the Pentagon than use the Silver Line.

A final plan will be presented to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in early June.

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