Metrorail to Dulles: Why So Slow?
By Roger M. Firestone
In 1881, the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railway, better known as the Nickel Plate Road, began construction of a main line from Buffalo to Chicago. In 500 days, the railroad completed more than 500 miles of track, some 49 bridges and numerous stations, placing hundreds of thousands of crossties, laying rail and driving spikes, all with manual labor. Trains ran in the fall of 1882, providing high-speed transport of meat and produce from the Midwest to hungry consumers in the East.
If Metro could equal the Nickel Plate, trains would be serving Dulles International Airport before Thanksgiving. Instead, it will take another four years just to reach Wiehle Avenue in Reston, even though Metro has modern equipment to replace the manual labor of the 19th century. Oh, yes, and the entire Nickel Plate Road was valued at somewhat over a million dollars (William Vanderbilt bought it for a hugely overpriced $7 million to stifle his competition), far less, even in today’s dollars, than the billions that the Dulles extension will cost.
What have we forgotten that Americans knew how to do 13 decades ago?
| September 24, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Tags: dulles, metrorail
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