All that’s needed is the trains.
Loudoun County, Virginia’s government has been waiting, spending and building for a long time, in anticipation of Metro trains running to Dulles International Airport and beyond. Word that Silver Line trains could begin running by Thanksgiving is sparking optimism that major development projects will soon follow.
“There’s only so much you can really do until you actually have the trains running,” said Dulles Supervisor and Metro Board member Matt Letourneau.
When Metro trains finally begin running on Phase Two of the Silver Line, it will be after four years of construction delays, and after a large percentage of newer Metro trains were taken out of service because of a wheel defect.
Letourneau said development at Loudoun County’s Ashburn stop has left nearby businesses anxious for trains to begin running on the 11.5-mile extension beyond the current end of the Silver Line, at Wiehle Avenue in Reston. In addition, he expects new projects will begin in the county near the Loudoun Gateway station.
“It’s an example of the type of development we were hoping for,” said Letourneau, referring to the Ashburn stop. “Transit-oriented development, mixed-use development that contains residential, commercial and potentially some major amenities that we don’t have, like dining and shopping.”
Letourneau expects that once the Silver Line begins running, the pace of development near the stations will increase.
“We’ve seen this along the Silver Line in Phase One,” said Letourneau. “We’ve certainly seen the growth that’s occurred in Reston, particularly at the Wiehle Avenue station, and we’re anticipating that kind of growth in Loudoun County, too.”
What’s ready (and still to come) at Loudoun Co. Metro stations
While the delay of Silver Line trains has been frustrating, it’s given Loudoun County time to plan, build and prepare for new residents, employees and customers, and those who will park and board Metro trains to commute toward D.C.
“We have parking garages that we built alongside the stations. We have walking paths and multimodal paths,” said Letourneau. “Not all of them will be in place for Day One, but the Board of Supervisors has plans to help get them built.”
The county has established a residential parking district “in one of the newer residential communities around the Ashburn station, to ensure that commuters won’t be taking spaces on the street that residents want,” Letourneau said.
“The office building at Loudoun Station is 100% leased-up. It’s doing very well,” said Letourneau, referring to the development at the station located in Ashburn. Both of Loudoun County’s Silver Line stations flank the Dulles Greenway, with the trains running along the median of the 14-mile privately owned road that links Dulles to Leesburg.
Some businesses opened — and closed — during the four-year delay of getting Silver Line trains to Ashburn.
“There’s a number of restaurants and smaller retail shops, and those have been open,” said Letourneau. “Some have come, some have gone, in the natural cycle of things, over the last several years.”
The county plans to maximize its Loudoun County Transit Network bus routes by tweaking service once Silver Line trains are running.
“We have new routes that we’ll be starting when the Silver Line starts,” said Letourneau. “We’re going to be rerouting a lot of our service into the stations that [are] in Loudoun County, which will allow us to run shorter trips and more frequent trips.”
Letourneau said he expects Loudoun County will also benefit from development near a station located in Fairfax County, immediately before the airport. Plans are advancing for Rivana at Innovation Station, which straddles Loudoun and Fairfax counties.
“It’s interesting, because this is the campus we pitched to Amazon for HQ2, with a joint Loudoun and Fairfax effort,” said Letourneau. “This would be our largest project in our history.”
“Like a project like Reston, these are really long-term projects that would take decades to fully develop,” said Letourneau. “They’re still building at Reston Town Center, so these are long-term vision types of things.”