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Like A Bridge Over Tysons Corner: Kaine Lies Down

"When times get rough, and friends just can't be found," Simon and Garfunkel sang, "I will lay me down."

Which is exactly what Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine did yesterday, when he gave up the fight for putting Metro's rail line to Dulles Airport under rather than over Tysons Corner. After weeks of making noises in favor of tunneling through Tysons so as to maximize the possibility of turning that symbol of suburban sprawl into a walkable and vibrant urban center, Kaine caved to the very persuasive and powerfully solid wall of Republican opposition and embraced the aboveground solution. Barring some last minute miracle, the Metro line that planners and developers hope will transform Tysons will be an elevated line.

Both of Virginia's U.S. Senators, as well as the local congressmen and Bush administration transportation officials made it clear to Kaine that they were not interested in either the added expense or an urban vision that depended on the tunnel plan.

Kaine's switcheroo may be the pragmatic choice, and the governor obviously concluded that it was this or nothing. "I share the belief of many of our project partners that a tunnel alignment would be the best option," Kaine said. "However, too many unanswered questions remain about cost and timing. These uncertainties cannot be allowed to jeopardize this critical project."

The governor deserves credit for making the argument for the tunnel and for forcing a detailed exploration of the possible costs of a big dig. But he will someday join the developers who control the land in and around Tysons and the shoppers, workers and residents of Fairfax in regretting this decision.

Just as officials and developers in the District are now in the process of diminishing the potential of the area around the new baseball stadium by taking the cheap route and building huge, aboveground parking garages rather than putting the parking underground and devoting the open space near the ballpark to alluring and pedestrian-friendly retail and entertainment projects, the guardians of Tysons now face decades of frustration. Many cities in this country spent untold billions over the past several decades undoing the exact same mistakes, tearing down elevated train lines that cast shadows and prevented neighborhoods from becoming the vibrant, safe and walkable places that make people want to visit, dine, wander and spend their money.

So why are Virginia's elected officials insisting on repeating the errors of the past? Two reasons: Building the train line aboveground is cheaper and faster. Cheaper is something everyone likes, but sometimes, it makes sense to invest more if you're going to reap far more profit in the long term. Faster is also better, and here, the only real rush is to get these projects underway while the politicians making the deals can still claim credit for making the train line happen.

"The governor, architects, urban planners, land owners, business leaders, local officials, members of the Congressional delegation, the Washington Post and the smart growth community all believe a tunnel is the best option for rail in Tysons Corner," says Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. "It is a shame that we are not bold enough to seize this opportunity."

Rep. Jim Moran put it bluntly: "The governor had a tough business decision to make. While we both favored a tunnel through Tysons Corner, the threat of further delays and increased cost put the federal matching funds at too great a risk."

The elevated line is now supposedly going to be finished in 2012, though that seems awfully optimistic.

Most of us will probably be long gone, but our kids will likely live to see the day when their tax bills go up to pay for the elevated train lines at Tysons to be torn down in an effort to provide a more welcoming and economically thriving landscape.

By Marc Fisher |  September 7, 2006; 7:40 AM ET
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I would like the above-ground line through Tyson's Corner to be formally named the Wolf-Davis line. Then, as people commute through Tyson's and look up to see this loud rusting hulk they will know from wence it came.

Posted by: Kurt | September 7, 2006 9:35 AM

I'd rather see no line than an above-ground line. Rapid transit via bus seems like a far more cost-effective and aesthetically pleasing solution.

Posted by: Kelly | September 7, 2006 9:51 AM

I'm sure it's way too late for this suggestion, but since they've stupidly rejected the tunnel option they should also reject runnning metro through Tysons. Put metro to Dulles back in the access road median and use the vast amounts saved to build a comprehensive streetcar system through Tysons. Link that streetcar system to at least two metro stations, but design it so that people can use it not just to get to and from Tysons but around and about in Tysons. Most of the traffic there is some guy driving from his Tysons office to his Tysons restaurant for lunch with a side trip to his Tysons dry cleaners. Rather than trying to turn Tysons into Clarendon, which it was never going to be because of its distance from DC, try to turn it into downtown Portland.

Posted by: Paul | September 7, 2006 9:56 AM

Dunno. I predict that our grandchildren will argue over whether to build a tunnel between Farragut West and Farragut North, whether to redesign the Rosslyn tunnel, whether to extend the Yellow Line... and all the assorted other ideas for fixing Metro.

Posted by: tallbear | September 7, 2006 10:01 AM

Great article. Isn't it just like a politician to do something wrong just to say they have done something. An elevated line through Tysons will be a disaster. It is better to do nothing.

Posted by: Chuck | September 7, 2006 10:04 AM

I'm not sure why Marc chose to paint this as a Republican v. Democrat issue. Yes, congressmen Wolf and Davis are Republicans but both, like Kaine (D), would have preferred the tunnel option as well. The stumbling block were the federal guidelines concerning cost effectiveness for a given transportation project. These guidelines, however shortsighted, have been in place for some time and are not a Republican creation.

Wolf and Davis were simply bowing to federal spending reality and not espousing their own preference for an elevated line.

Posted by: Ffx | September 7, 2006 10:09 AM

Just out of curiousity, does anyone know whether the proposed extension is to connect with the Orange Line? If so, have any of the planners actually ridden the Orange Line in the morning? It's at ful capacity by the time it hits Ballston and is always delayed (thanks in large part to the short-sighted, one tunnel system under the Potomac). So, if we're adding the Tysons crowd to the mix, forget about it. Above or below ground won't matter. It'll be an absolute mess either way.

Posted by: ArlVA | September 7, 2006 10:09 AM

I agree with Ffx, the tunnel vs. elevated line was not a partisan issue. The career bureaucrats in the Department of Transportation had more to do with the final decision than any elected official. i don't understand why there is so much negativity surrounding an elevated line. the primary goal of the tysons metro line is to get cars off of the road, not to create some kind of urban center.

Posted by: brif | September 7, 2006 10:24 AM

I agree with Tallbear. No matter what anyone decides, we'll still be arguing over the same old traffic problems for years and years to come, generations and generations into the future.

As gridlocked as Tysons is now, how can anyone think that the best solution is to put up barriers, jersey walls, and construction equipment, taking away until 2012 what inadequate roadway there already is? I realize that doing something is better than doing nothing, but it's too late now. Now it seems the most manageable solution is the old doctor's credo -- "Do no harm."

The time to do something to fix transportation was BEFORE all of the overdevelopment. Now the problem is so uncontrollable it makes no difference when or if anything is done. And THAT is why we, our children, our grandchildren, and their children will spend their entire lives sitting in gridlock -- talking, arguing, studying, and suing over solutions.

The truly amazing part is, the developers and Fairfax County Board (one and the same, I believe) never, ever, ever, ever learn. Sigh.

Posted by: NAC | September 7, 2006 10:25 AM

Shame on FTA and Congress for not trying to get this right. This is wrong on so many levels, but it won't be fixed until it's way too late. Do the feds believe transportation only means roads, airports and suburban-style infrastructure?

Posted by: DirrtySW | September 7, 2006 11:03 AM

Very stupid decision. I cannot believe that Wolf and Davis have the clout to force I-66 widening over the objections of the community most affected, yet they don't have the ability to preserve federal funding for underground Metro? This is so incredibly stupid and shortsighted. In 25 years, the leaders of Tysons are going to be arguing about how to tear it down.

I'm a huge supporter of rail to Tysons, but after this, count me against. I'd much rather see BRT or a light rail trolley system in Tysons (both of which would be cheaper) that this absurd proposal.

Kaine deserves his lumps, but to the extent this decision was forced on him by Wolf, Davis and the FTA--they should be ashamed.

Posted by: Arlington | September 7, 2006 11:08 AM

From the Post's story, here is all I need to know:

"Some tunnel supporters yesterday pointed fingers at the contractors on the project, a consortium of Bechtel and Washington Group International that was threatened with losing at least the Tysons part of the job to companies proposing to build the tunnel. Tunnel supporters said Bechtel has used its considerable clout to block a tunnel. A company spokesman denied the contention."

So, now, the obvious question: How much did Bechtel-Washington Group International contribute to Davis and Wolf? Are their opponents in the upcoming election paying attention? I like the part about Wolf pounding on the table. Very nice detail. Nothing more to say.

Posted by: FisherWatch | September 7, 2006 11:11 AM

Under IS better. I remember years ago, when I was a college student in Boston, the elevated Central Artery highway was a giant obstacle to walking from a subway station to the quaint, historic, highly photogenic North End neighborhood. The area under the expressway always seemed dank and vaguely threatening to a pedestrian walking alone. Same for Boston's Orange Line, which used to be an elevated line and is now underground.

I predict that Tysons pedestrians (if there are any) will be put off by all the dank passages under the Metro line. Elevated rails and roads, even when they're constructed as bridges, inevitably look like walls.

Posted by: Greenbelt Gal | September 7, 2006 11:15 AM

Sorry, but I simply don't care about this issue due to being a Washingtonian and holding a grudge against MD and VA regarding the DC Tax ($1) per car issue.

The Common Wealth/Crab State and my taxes are paying for half of it....go figure.

Who cares?

Posted by: Frankey | September 7, 2006 11:24 AM

I'm not sure I agree w/ Marc on where the bulk of the blame lies--seems to me there's enough to go all around. Richmond, Washington, and all the assorted local yahoos have managed to make an unbelievable hash out of the the transportation system in NoVa for years. As a resident of the Tyson's area for over 30-years, I've watched things go from bad to worse, and this latest decision is yet another disaster. I'm fed up w/ the lot of them--but feel utterly powerless to do anything about it.

Posted by: sn | September 7, 2006 11:39 AM

How sad for Tysons, Fairfax, and everyone who uses the area. This is something to add to Bush's list of stupid decisions and things to be embarrased by. I agree with the comments about Boston rail lines, and the probable tearing down of Tyson's "El". Didn't ANYONE consider putting metro to Dulles in the median, and put a local trolly system at Tysons? Wouldn't that draw tourits to see the cutesy trolleys? Worked for SanFran....
Can't the business leaders, land owners, etc stage some sort of protest, and bring in citizen input to make the right choice happen? Wouldn't it be cheaper to build the tunnel by ANY means (including razing buildings), then to build an El, and then tear it down? My kids, I'm sure, don't want to pay for that....


Posted by: Michael A. | September 7, 2006 11:43 AM

Wolf and Davis do seem pretty gutless in all this. Both are fairly high-ranking members of Congress, and it seems that they should have done more to smooth things over. Davis already wasn't getting my vote this November, and this cements it.
However, when you say both VA senators opposed the tunnel, that conflicts with the article's text, which says "Virginia's senior senator, John W. Warner (R), implored [FTA administrator James] Simpson, according to two people at the meeting. But Wolf, who has fought to gain rail money for years, argued against risking the federal funds, at one point banging his fist on the table to make his point." Does that not say that Warner was trying to persuade the FTA in favor of a tunnel?
I don't think it's necessarily a partisan issue given this evidence. It's just that the two Congressmen who represent the districts that the Metro line would pass through happen to be Republicans.

Posted by: Brian | September 7, 2006 11:47 AM

Can someone explain the term "walkaable" to me? I keep hearing that the above-ground Metro will make Tyson's less walkable in the future.

I often frequent a movie theater in Alexandria which has a Metro bridge going right over the parking lot. I've never had any trouble parking my car under the bridge and walking under it to the theater. I've also walked from the theater to Old Town before. This required me to walk under the same bridge outside the parking lot. I had no trouble with that either.

When I sit at National airport waiting to be picked up by a car I often watch the Metro going overhead. On its journey into the airport it doesn't seem to interfere with the dozens of roads traveling under it.

How is it that I can interact with Metro bridges in all these places and have no problem with them, but once they're in Tyson's they'll be "a disaster?"

I must be missing something.

Posted by: Walkable? | September 7, 2006 11:54 AM

A completely boneheaded decision! An el is the absolute last thing that area should have. I'm in agreement with those who say not having any rail there is better than that.

Posted by: Occasional reader | September 7, 2006 12:15 PM

While I understand the appeal and obvious aesthetic reason behind building Metrorail under Tysons, having an elevated line not the end of the world and will not turn Tysons into a place where sunlight refuses to shine. It is better than the alternative of no heavy rail, and will not make Tysons impassable as Mark suggests. Being from Philadelphia, I have an understanding of the impact of elevated rail, specifically, the Market-Frankford elevated line. The EL, as Philadelphians call it, is almost 100 years old in some sections and really looked like it until recently. The problem with elevated lines isn't that they are elevated but that they were constructed ages ago using iron, rust, rivets and without the least concern for pedestrian access or automotive traffic. We also get to see the effects of deterioration more closely if the segment is not maintained. Given the almost prissiness of the Metrorail system, I am confident that the extension designers will craft something that the will contend to win a Pulitzer Prize for beauty. Honestly, the area is in dire need of this line, Virginia, please don't derail it because it because it's visible.

Posted by: Randall | September 7, 2006 12:20 PM

If anything this will drive me straight to my car. The Orange Line is already unmanageable in the morning, its simply not rideable most days during rush hour once you get past WFC. Now they are going to add tens of thousands MORE riders? Where are they going to go exactly? No thanks!

Posted by: OrangeLine rider | September 7, 2006 12:24 PM

Do any of you tunnel-loving sages have any idea how much a tunnel costs compared to an above ground system? I didn't think so. I'd rather have a $500,000 luxury sports car than a $50,000 luxury sports car, but am not going to complain if someone gives me the lower priced one.

Posted by: mart | September 7, 2006 12:28 PM

I think Metro to Dulles is a waste of money and that most of the project ought to be scrapped; I also think that its negative effects on the capacity of the Orange and Blue Lines, with which the Dulles line will have to share track all the way to Stadium-Armory (thus necessitating running fewer trains on the other two lines to make room), bodes ill for the future of the Metro system.

But Metro to Tysons is the right idea. Unfortunately, the federal guidelines are so typical of the way we've taken to doing things in this country--we cheap out wherever possible. Sometimes the added expenditure of doing something right is better than a short-term savings. But the bean counters have taken over and will never allow that. Look at highway paving. Our roads always need repaving because the Powers That Be insist on awarding the contracts to whoever does the job for the least money, rather than to whoever will do the BEST job that will lead to the most durable paving project. (The Germans do the latter and their roads have a thicker pavement, making them more durable.)

Has anyone here ever been to downtown Chicago, also known as the Loop? Those elevated trains are NOISY when they go through. Our Metro is undoubtedly more modern than Chicago's El, but it's by no means silent. Having above-ground trains also makes redevelopment (if needed) far more difficult and expensive, as the Big Dig has shown us in Boston.

I think the best option is a combination of a Metrorail tunnel and a few light-rail lines to connect the Tysons area to the new Metro line.

Posted by: Rich | September 7, 2006 12:29 PM

Neither a bridge nor a tunnel will make Tysons Corner pedestrian-friendly. To make Tysons Corner into an urban place you'd have to break up the big office blocks, greatly increase density, fill in the surface parking lots and -reduce- the flow of automobile traffic. If all this ever happened, the bridge/tunnel choice would be academic-- however, from what I've seen, the chances of these things happening are about zero.

Posted by: Matt | September 7, 2006 12:35 PM

Why doesn't Virginia pay for this out of its own budget and stop begging money from Washington? If they're not taking federal funds, they can put it anywhere they want. Putting a tunnel where it's not needed is more costly than Boston's infamous "big dig."

Posted by: KK | September 7, 2006 12:36 PM

To FisherWatch,

So, you read in the Washington Post that "Tunnel supporters said Bechtel has used its considerable clout to block a tunnel." Which "tunnel supporters" and why are they credible? I suppose you also believed all that junk in the Washington Post about the White House leaking Valerie Plame's name?

You know the Post has no regard for the truth when it doesn't even cite its sources and makes this stuff up. You at least cite your source -- the Post -- but why would you believe them? What credibility do they have?

Posted by: KK | September 7, 2006 12:50 PM

I agree with several of the posters that no metro to Tyson's would be better...except that I think that no metro is better than a tunnel. What these NoVans are proposing is using an obscene amount of federal, and local infrastructure dollars for a project that benefits only a small portion of the metro area. But using that money would cause significant hardships for other major projects that would benefit as many or more people.

On the poorer side of town in PG county, we've been trying for the less expensive purple line (PG to Montgomery line) and the extension of the green line to BWI airport. Both projects would support as many people, but being that we're a poorer county, we have less clout on the issue. It really galls me to see how much money is spent to route Metro to Tysons and then hear all this grousing when other areas would be glad to have that money for their local projects.

I, for one, think that Kaine made a good decision to avoid both the delay and the bank crippling costs of the tunnel. The benefit per capita of a tunnel is far too expensive.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | September 7, 2006 1:11 PM

This whole thing reminds me of a quote from the guy who built Union Station....

"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will themselves not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die."
Daniel Burnham

Kaine makes little plans...

Posted by: Andrew | September 7, 2006 1:45 PM


How can you characterize this massive, costly undertaking as "little plans"? Little plans is what they're doing in PG County.

Posted by: KK | September 7, 2006 1:51 PM

It's almost as if Fisher believes elevated rail in Tysons will transform that area into some pre-Batman Gotham City, with the ragged clothing and crumbling cathedrals. People, this is still America! They will find a way to make it work. Real estate companies in this area have seen the light in developing around Metro. Whether that includes building around the stations or connecting other buildings to them, so be it. Not everyone can get everything they want. See this as an opportunity! How's it going to help to drown oneself in Postie pessimism? Yeah, like that's worked.

Posted by: CPS | September 7, 2006 2:01 PM

Better a Metro line that's aboveground at Tysons and goes out to Dulles Airport (and eastern Loudoun) than a line with a Tysons tunnel that has to stop at Reston because the costs are prohibitive. Kudos to Kaine for a prudent decision -- especially because had he backed a tunnel, the GOP anti-tax yahoos in the House of Delegates (think Lingamfelter, who always uses the "family" euphemism to justify his backward policy plans) would have taken Kaine to the woodshed.

Posted by: Vincent | September 7, 2006 2:11 PM

CPS -- its very simple. Take a look around the country at other places where elevated trains exist and you will quickly see why they are less desirable. It's already impossible to walk anywhere in Tysons. Now we're only adding to the trouble.

The only reason to build Metro to Tysons at all is to redevelop the land into a true mixed use urban area (read Ballston). If you're not going to do that (and you can't with an elevated track), then the entire project should be scrapped in favor of light rail trolleys or BRT.

I know of which I speak.

Posted by: Arlington | September 7, 2006 2:12 PM

Marc, please explain how an elevated track is incompatible with "a walkable and vibrant urban environment". An elevated track, unlike a ground level track, can be *walked under*. There is no reason why forward-thinking urban architects can't design a "walkable and vibrant urban environment" around an elevated track.

I agree with Walkable? and Randall.

Posted by: H Brown | September 7, 2006 2:44 PM


If "it's already impossible to walk anyplace in Tyson's" then how can we possibly be "adding to the problem"? Will this rule out crawling, too?

Look, elevated trains may not be "desirable" but aren't they better than what we have now, and a lot cheaper than the alternative of a tunnel? A Hyundai is not as "desirable" as a BMW, but it's affordable and it does the job.

What is it about the posters to this blog that they take the attitude that "If the Federal Government's not going to buy me a BMW, then they're pikers and they shouldn't buy me anything at all?"

Posted by: KK | September 7, 2006 2:45 PM

I agree with a previous poster...I'm not seeing why an elevated rack is the end-all of development in Tyson's. The neighborhoods along the yellow/blue lines (King Street, Eisenhower Ave, etc) seem to be doing just fine. There is plenty of new construction in those areas, and no trouble walking around. It sounds like the residents of Tyson's don't want to hear the construction or see the tracks, but they do want to reap the benefits. Frankly, I'm less concerned with what the residents of Tyson's want than the transportation needs of the other millions of people who live in this area. Build it. Even if it's the most hideous thing in the world, it's still better than Route 7.

Posted by: i must not get it | September 7, 2006 2:48 PM

John Que

So your point is that the Federal Government should pay extra for your tunnel so that you can continue to live better than us poor slugs in DC? If it improve the quality of your lives, why don't you pay for it?

Posted by: KK | September 7, 2006 2:51 PM

Prince Georges County isn't complaining today about its miserable commute. Fairfax is...and continues to...and will throughout your lifetime. The high income they say + those great schools doesn't exactly resolve all of your quality of life concerns either... For the cost of your housing, and commute, an above Metro nearby means you may as well move to DC....and reduce the commute/

Posted by: john que | September 7, 2006 2:52 PM

Prince Georges County isn't complaining today about its miserable commute. Fairfax is...and continues to...and will throughout your lifetime.

Posted by: john que | September 7, 2006 02:52 PM


Says you. I know plenty of people around here who *ARE* complaining about their commute. We live in Laurel and my wife's commute to downtown is obscene. It takes almost 20-25 minutes to get *TO* the metro. If the green line were extended to BWI, it would come through Laurel and plenty of people in PG and Howard County would be able to commute via public transit to downtown DC. And we in PG live the same distance from downtown as you in NoVa do, but NoVa is much more accessible than PG. And PG has a lower median income and would appreciate the public transit option more. But, as the poor county around the beltway, our voices aren't heard as much as FairFax.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | September 7, 2006 3:04 PM

Fisher says: Both of Virginia's U.S. Senators, as well as the local congressmen and Bush administration transportation officials made it clear to Kaine that they were not interested in either the added expense or an urban vision that depended on the tunnel plan.

Guess what Fisher - the Fairfax county voters didn't share that same vision 8 years ago when they voted against funding the idiotic transformation. Most of us still don't want it. Only Carpet Baggers and the Post want it, not the people who live in the county.

Posted by: baspartan | September 7, 2006 3:04 PM

In addition to having a 40 foot high elevated train with its attendant noise pollution, the plans call for the el to be situated in the median strip between the eastbound and westbound lanes of Route 7. Also, the service roads will disappear; instead you'll have traffic from the businesses that line Route 7 entering and exiting directly into the main stream of traffic.
I see two outcomes: traffic will slow to an even slower crawl than it does today, and the body shops along Route 7 will be doing a bang-up business.

Posted by: 2 miles from Tysons | September 7, 2006 3:06 PM

"If the green line were extended to BWI, it would come through Laurel and plenty of people in PG and Howard County would be able to commute via public transit to downtown DC."

By my reckoning, PG and Howard are already served by heavy rail (MARC). And if memory serves, it connects with Metro in 3 places: Greenbelt, New Carrolton, and Union Station.

Posted by: jibberjabber | September 7, 2006 3:28 PM

I'm worried that putting Metro above-ground will jeopardize the success of the project itself. A pedestrian-friendly neighborhood not only make it easy to walk around, but encourages people to use public transit. Once someone gets off the train at Tysons, then what? You need to walk (or potentially bus) to your actual location. If the streetscape doesn't change, who will want to ride the train in the first place?

The Tysons stops are not Greenbelt or Vienna. They depend upon people getting to and from without their cars.

Posted by: nashpaul | September 7, 2006 3:47 PM

The original argument for extending the Orange line was to service Dullus airport. Supposedly, travellers with suitcases and carry-ons would be more than willing to schlep through Metro in order to save money on a cab ride from downtown. Next our brilliant transportation planners decided to make this trip even more attractive by adding several intermediat stops so travellers trying to make a flight would have more time to appreciate the local neighborhoods. Now, we are talking about using metro to stimulate urban renewal. Can we please get back to the original task and simply add about 50 buses to the Wahington flyer fleet to move passangers from downtown hotels to the airport?

Posted by: Woodbridge Va | September 7, 2006 3:52 PM

Folks who question the value of the underground rail versus the "El" don't understand the potential benefits of re-working the "urban center" to orient it around the Metro. The underground line location would not be dependent on existing locations of Route 7 or Route 123 and could vastly expand the growth potential of the rest of Tysons and allow a new implementation of a new street grid that would support better use of existing parcels in Tysons. In other words, higher density in the office parks that would be redeveloped to support more mixed use and more "walkable" streets. Get it now?

I agree that Wolf and Davis are not solely to blame. But consider that they were the forceful ARGUERS against the tunnel even though their LOCAL people nearly unanimously were FOR it. Basically, they failed in their representation job. You can't tell me that with the willingness that Sen. Warner and Gov. Kaine displayed to go to the mat for the tunnel, that if Wolf and Davis had not insisted for another "grandfather" or "exemption" to the new rules from FTA, that they couldn't make it happen.

Where there's a will, there's a way. Clearly, there was no will on behalf of Wolf and Davis. In fact, as evidenced by Wolf's fist-pounding, there was MUTINY.

Posted by: Doug in Mount Vernon | September 7, 2006 4:01 PM

Sorry, but this is TOTALLY a Democrat vs. Republican issue. The Bush Department of Transportation is obsessed with "innovative" (i.e. cheap) transit solutions, such as the "Purple Bus Line" (Ehrlich's latest baby). If this were anywhere else, Wolf and Davis would be against it. The Republican party has become incapable of investing in this country's infrastructure (whether it be first-responders or public transport)-except when it comes to constituents, at which point they come up with some half-***ed solution or just build more roads.

Posted by: guez | September 7, 2006 4:04 PM


No, because that was NEVER the only "argument". The PURPOSE of the Metro line is to extend a mass transit corridor out into the suburbs to help allow more growth into it---like in the Arlington corridor---and to reduce the pressure of that development on the roads. That's the purpose of all mass transit.

Posted by: Doug in Mount Vernon | September 7, 2006 4:05 PM

I'm one that could care less if Metro expands or not. I'm just tired of listening to the constant whining by people that brag and choose to live where they do, but cannot accept ALL that goes with it. Like they're destined to have great schools, no crime, large mansions, great shopping, lots to do,...and a 10 minute commute. Get real. And stop talking about other parts of the region as though any one part has ALL of what i discribed. Or just relocate...or deal with it as I/others do.

Posted by: John Que | September 7, 2006 4:12 PM

We all have options.
We can live here...or someplace else.
If we choose to live here, there are pros and cons. Whining about commutes or crime or poor schools or high prices, etc... is something that EVERYONE in the DC Region can relate to. And remember, its not how much $ one earns that matters, its what one can actually purchase with it. Many in the ATL today are living better than many here, despite earning less. You have choices...

Posted by: Guess who? | September 7, 2006 4:16 PM

Doug in Mount Vernon --

I've lived in the area long enough to remember the original proposal for rail to Dullus and transporting passangers was indeed the only argument for the idea. It was patterned after the highly successful rail link in Philadelphia that goes from downtown to the airport with only 3 stops (suburban station, 30th street and airport). Philadelphia made back their investment in about 3 years and profits from the rail line help subsidize the rest of the system. Unfortunately, a similar rail line to Dullus was never feasible because there is no decent right of way so the idea evolved of piggy backing off the Orange line and it has been all down hill from there.

Frankly, if we really wanted to use mass transit to relieve congestion between I-66 and the river, we would extend VRE to Warrenton and create a rail link between Winchester and the MARC line at Harpers Ferry while putting more buses into Tysons. Although somehow I do not see the lexus crowd moving to either buses or subways.

Posted by: Woodbridge Va | September 7, 2006 4:27 PM

Folks who question the value of the underground rail versus the "El" don't understand the potential benefits of re-working the "urban center" to orient it around the Metro. The underground line location would not be dependent on existing locations of Route 7 or Route 123 and could vastly expand the growth potential of the rest of Tysons and allow a new implementation of a new street grid that would support better use of existing parcels in Tysons.

Posted by: Doug in Mount Vernon | September 7, 2006 04:01 PM


Oh, we do understand it. However, what we don't understand is if we are paying $4B plus (that's the conservative estimate with significant cost overruns expected over the 9-year plan), why should the rest of the Metro area suffer with significant loss of available revenue to fund other public works programs in other areas for one wealthy area? The current estimates are that the tunnel will cost $200-400M extra over the el in the first two years alone for a 9 year program and that doesn't include cost overruns (those that are associated with the tunnel vs the el). The tunnel could easily end up costing close to $1B more over 9 years. That's a lot of money that won't go to other areas. There are areas of the District that could use that infrastructure money far more than Tyson's.

If this is so important to those people who live and work in the Tyson's area, then let Fairfax county bear the cost differential. The same service would be provided to the rest of the Metro area with either an El or a Tunnel. The primary benefits of the tunnel vs the overhead would be to the residents. But, why should residents in south Virginia, Maryland and the District pay extra for the infrastructure to improve the quality of life in the richest county in the US?

Posted by: DadWannaBe | September 7, 2006 4:34 PM

KK scares me....

Posted by: Frankey | September 7, 2006 4:40 PM

Guess who?--I do agree. But check out john que's quote which I referenced. For some reason, the implication is that FairFax's problems are greater than others in the metro area and somehow deserve a significantly larger portion of the infrastructure budget for the whole area. The arguments for a tunnel vs an overhead line for the Orange line are all pretty one-sided for the residents and businesses of the local area rather than for the metro-area infrastructure. The metro-area infrastructure would be equally supported by either transit method. I'm not objecting to the rail through there, but tothe added expense of significant money to build something that is more desirable for the locals than for the metro area when that money could be better allocated to other projects in the metro area.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | September 7, 2006 4:49 PM

"If this is so important to those people who live and work in the Tyson's area, then let Fairfax county bear the cost differential. The same service would be provided to the rest of the Metro area with either an El or a Tunnel. The primary benefits of the tunnel vs the overhead would be to the residents. But, why should residents in south Virginia, Maryland and the District pay extra for the infrastructure to improve the quality of life in the richest county in the US?"

The problem, from Virginia's standpoint, is that the feds won't kick in their share of the cost even if Virginia pays the difference between the tunnel and the el. The feds say it has to be the cheapest option, period, or they're not chipping in. One can agree or disagree on whether the feds should be chipping in at all, but it seems to me that if they chip in a set amount, they shouldn't object to the state paying a higher share to build a tunnel.

Posted by: Rich | September 7, 2006 5:57 PM


One at a time.

No one says that Tysons "deserves" it more than anyone else. But it IS the biggest bottleneck that Metro can help loosen and/or unlock.

After this, I'm in favor of scrapping the whole project and implementing a region-wide bus rapid-transit project in the entir region for the same price.

Posted by: Doug in Mount Vernon | September 7, 2006 6:00 PM

Contractors win over the people again. I hope we remember these feds and take action when it is possible in the future. This is a mistake that they will remember just about forever. People will say "Why not under ground?" Others will say "They thought it would cost too much. Later on we learned it would have been less. But someone had a contract."

Posted by: Gary Masters | September 7, 2006 6:18 PM

To Rich, about Chicago's El - I am from Chi-Town and the clack of the elevated trains was a reassuring sound - part of the heartbeat to the Loop. Taking the El to go downtown is a treasured memory, now that I live in another city. Metro has a younger system that looks better. No doubt the new extension will be better still. It was the right choice to get this extension built!

Posted by: Linda | September 7, 2006 7:14 PM

Would anyone in Silver Spring complain that having and elevated rail line has prevented them from fostering transit-oriented development downtown? What about all the new development at the aboveground King Street metro in Alexandria? Sure, everyone would prefer it to be underground but who wants another Big Dig?

Posted by: Spitz | September 8, 2006 11:38 AM

Let's consider the big picture, the entire line, and not focus so much on the Tysons element. If I lived in Reston or eastern Loudoun, I'd tell the Tysons people, you made your lie in it. Okay?

Posted by: Vincent | September 8, 2006 2:04 PM

Darn, I was hoping for the underground option. That said, I frequently visit Chicago with its famous "El" and realize that an elevated track through Tyson's is not the end of the world. First, while Chicago's El is a little shady under the tracks, the Tysons track will be much higher and not nearly as wide (look at pre-existing Metro elevated track). So you won't have nearly the problem of dark dank spaces below. And secondly, Chicago's Loop, where numerous streets have elevated track, is one of the most vibrant square miles in the country that I know of. Personally I sort of enjoy looking out over the city from the El in Chicago, and I think the Metro elevated through Tyson's can work.

But as someone else touched on earlier, it's going to be up to private business to make Tyson's work; New York, Chicago and all the other great cities in America are not the product of grand government schemes.

Posted by: Chris | September 8, 2006 2:29 PM

Call me a maverick, but you can't retrofit Tysons to make it into something it's not. An elevated train is not what will keep Tysons from becoming a "walkable neighborhood." The past few decades of unplanned, low-density sprawl provided the coffin nails here, folks. Fairfax County should look ahead to high-density, neighborhood development at future stations along the extended Metro instead of clamoring for a makeover at Tysons, which has become precisely the soulless pit envisioned by those who originally and more recently "developed" it.

Let us all look forward -- and away from Tysons -- for inspiration, shall we?

Posted by: Tu Padalabdab | September 8, 2006 3:42 PM

The main problem with the elevated line is that it will run through the median of route 7 requiring riders to dash across a busy highway and preventing development from
occurring close to the stops. This is not the case in Chicago or most of the elevated stops in our region. Because of this it is unlikely that Tysons will ever resemble Chicago or even Alexandria.

I also have to agree with previous posters who pointed out that the Orange line is already at capacity and will not be able to handle all the new riders no matter which option is chosen.

Posted by: TC | September 12, 2006 1:28 PM

"If this is so important to those people who live and work in the Tyson's area, then let Fairfax county bear the cost differential. The same service would be provided to the rest of the Metro area with either an El or a Tunnel. The primary benefits of the tunnel vs the overhead would be to the residents. But, why should residents in south Virginia, Maryland and the District pay extra for the infrastructure to improve the quality of life in the richest county in the US?""

Amen, Amen, & Amen!

This whole project is an unnecessary boondoggle that will benefit mainly the developers and property owners looking to make a killing, the politicians who want a vanity project to brag about, and the transit advocates who just can't get enough subsidized rail.

I've yet to understand why this project is being bum-rushed. At a $ 4 billion MINIMUM cost, plus perpetual operating subsidies, this project should be getting at least the same scrutinty as is given any six-lane highway. In this region, we study proposed highways, indulge opponents with hearings ad nauseum, then usually kill them if they will upset or incovenience ANYONE. But with expensive, subsidized rail, it's always full speed ahead, and damn the cost.

I remain unconvinced that this project is necessary. It certainly won't alleviate congestion in Tysons or the Dulles Corridor. Most of the people who work in those areas either live nearby or travel by car from areas not served by Metrorail. In fact, studies by the most ardent supporters of Dulles rail have proven that the projected ridership just isn't worth the expense.

And if Dulles/Tysons rail DOES get the projected riders, the existing Orange Line, overcrowded as it already is, will get even worse. This will in turn increase traffic congestion because many people will eventually return to their cars.

What galls me is that we in Maryland are struggling to get a needed link in inner PG and Montgomery and a link to our airport. All while Dulles rail is being bum-rushed and some of its supporters are coming over from Virginia and Vermont and pretending they're Maryland residents and taxpayerse in an effort to kill the InterCounty connector - a badly-needed road that's been studied to death.

I say let those who will benefit the most from rail to Tyson's and Dulles pay for it. Let's levy a tax on real estate near Metro, say within a mile or two.

I wonder how many of the rail advocates would be on board if they had to pay for their own pet projects, like those of us who drive must pay for roads.

And exactly why aren't we considering a less expensive alternative like rapid buses to Dulles and a light-rail in Tysons?Why do we HAVE to build heavy rail? After all, whenever a road is proposed, the first thing we hear from transit advocates, environmentalists and others is "we must study alternatives".

Posted by: CEEAF | September 13, 2006 9:13 PM

"After this, I'm in favor of scrapping the whole project and implementing a region-wide bus rapid-transit project in the entir region for the same price."

Makes a lot of sense, but it won't happen. Rail is sexier - you'll never hear a politician or a transit advocate bragging about their new bus rapid transit system.

Plus, rail is costlier - a LOT costlier. Building rail leaves over less money for - heaven forbid - building roads.

There's a method to the madness.

Posted by: CEEAF | September 15, 2006 5:11 PM

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