Is Phase Two of Dulles Metro the right investment?
Phase One of the Metrorail Silver Line is one of the most promising infrastructure investments in America. Tysons Corner has more office space than downtown Baltimore and Richmond combined but has developed in a haphazard, dysfunctional way. The arrival of Metro promises to transform the behemoth that is Tysons into a manageable, functional urban place. Accomplishing that will be well worth the $2.76 billion price-tag.
Phase Two of the Silver Line will do no such thing. For $3.83 billion, more than a billion dollars more than Phase One, Phase Two will extend the line 11.5 miles into Loudoun County, with five stations that will be used primarily as park-and-rides plus a sixth at Dulles Airport. That's $333 million per mile.
Park-and-rides and transit access to the airport are both great things, but are they worth almost $4 billion?
Consider other transit investments we might make with that same amount of money.
Arlington's proposed streetcar on Columbia Pike will cost an average of $27 million per mile. That suggests that for the same cost as Phase Two, Northern Virginia could build 140 miles of streetcar lines.
Granted, streetcars aren't as good as Metro, but isn't the opportunity to blanket every major corridor in Northern Virginia with rail transit at least worth considering? Imagine bonafide trains running up and down Route 7, Route 50, Little River Turnpike, Chain Bridge Road -- a whole network that could take you anywhere. To me, that seems better than one Metro line.
Of course, providing transit to Dulles Airport is important, but we can do better for less money. The big problem with the Silver Line is that with all those stops between Dulles and downtown Washington, the trip is going to take a really long time. If all you want to do is get to Dulles, then a new bus rapid transit line could get you there faster than Metrorail, and it could be created for less than the cost of a single mile of new Silver Line.
Getting Metro to Tysons Corner was something that our region absolutely had to accomplish. Getting Metro to Dulles Airport is not. For less money, we could use a combination of bus rapid transit and light rail/streetcars to provide faster access to Dulles and dramatically improve transit throughout all of Northern Virginia.
Instead of an expensive, one-size-fits-all solution that only helps a few, let's use our money efficiently to provide better transit service for more people.
Dan Malouff is an Arlington County transportation planner who blogs independently at BeyondDC.com. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.
| September 16, 2010; 2:20 PM ET
Categories: Local blog network, Metro, Virginia, traffic, transportation
Save & Share: Previous: Rhee just keeps digging a bigger hole
Next: Run for office, attend the symphony?
Posted by: googleguy | September 16, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: AMviennaVA | September 16, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: supersmax | September 16, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: tkelley55 | September 16, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Dan Malouff | September 16, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: juliusbewhere1 | September 16, 2010 10:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: krickey7 | September 17, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Dan Malouff | September 17, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: dcmidnight | September 17, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: crzytwnman | September 17, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: crzytwnman | September 17, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.