Secretary: Solutions slim for area traffic boom

Adam Tuss,

WASHINGTON – How long have you lived in the D.C. area? 10 years? 20 years? 30 years?

Go back in time just a few decades, and you may not recognize the place you now call home.

During a recent transportation event, Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton summed up the situation with a look at the Tysons Corner area.

“I still remember in 1983, driving out to Tysons Mall … I remember the person I was with, I said, ‘This thing will never succeed. Who would ever come out to a mall way out here in the middle of nowhere?'” laughed Connaughton.

Anyone who lives, works or drives through Tysons Corner today — an area that’s being dubbed the future “second downtown” of the D.C. area — knows it’s now a much different story.

The immense change in development, job growth and congestion can all be attributed to a population boom the area has experienced. Even more people are expected to come to this region in the coming decades.

And as far as how we’ll all get around, Connaughton says the approach is going to have to be one that makes better use of transportation networks that are already in place.

“I don’t have the physical ability to expand the system anymore,” Connaughton said. “Anyone driving up or down I-395 or I-95, you recognize — we can’t go out any further. I-66, you can’t go out any further.”

He says there is the possibility of making better use of rapid bus networks to shuffle people around, but don’t look for any Metro extensions in the near term.

“We can’t extend the heavy rail, just because of the costs involved,” said Connaughton.

A look at the projected $6 billion price tag for the 23-mile Metro extension to Dulles International Airport shows that rail extensions don’t come cheap.

The secretary said he believes technology and personnel practices have evolved to the point that telework will have to become more of a player in developing a transportation solution for the region.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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