Ever heard of Greensboro? Spring Hill? How the Silver Line stations got their names

Silver Line's Greensboro station
The Greensboro station on Metro’s new Silver Line looking east along Leesburg Pike. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

If you have no idea where the Northern Virginia communities of Greensboro and Spring Hill are (or will be), just ride the new Silver Line.

Three of the Silver Line’s five new stations have familiar, geographical names: McLean, Tysons Corner and the westernmost station, Wiehle-Reston East. The other two — Greensboro and Spring Hill — are both in the Tysons Corner area, but they don’t ring an immediate bell for many people.

So where did the names come from?

Back in March 2011, Fairfax County supervisors approved county staff recommendations for the eight stations in Fairfax. Initally, four of the first five stations included “Tysons” in the name — Tysons-McLean, Tysons I&II, Tysons Central and Tysons-Spring Hill Road. The fifth station included in this first opening phase was initially named Reston-Wiehle Avenue, after the geographical area and the major road where it was located.

But Metro officials rejected the initial names, saying having four stations named some version of  “Tysons” would be too repetitive, confusing and not distinctive enough to help people find them. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) generally requires that Metro station names be “relevant” (derived from geographical features, landmarks or names of communities within a half-mile walk), “brief” (a maximum 19 characters), “unique” (distinct and not easily confused with other stations), and “evocative” (able to “evoke imagery in the mind of the patron”), according to a background paper on the issue for a 2012 Fairfax Board of Supervisors public hearing.

So Fairfax officials came up with new names, which they discussed at public workshops and gauged in an online survey that received 16,231 responses. The conclusion of the survey and other public feedback: People wanted “brief and non-repetitive names,” according to the background paper.

So, Tysons-McLean became McLean, Tyons I&II became Tysons Corner, and Tysons Central  became Greensboro Park, named after nearby Greensboro Drive and an office park with plans for redevelopment. (It has since been shortened to Greensboro.)

Tysons-Spring Hill lost the Tysons, too. It is now Spring Hill, named after its Spring Hill Road address. It lost the word “road” so it would “better connote a neighborhood and help transform this area into a new, recognizable activity center in the western portion of Tysons,” according to the background paper.

The Reston-Wiehle Avenue station was reversed to “Wiehle-Reston East” to better distinguish it from the other Reston-area stations that will be coming to the west, after the Silver Line is completed to Dulles International Airport.

The remaining three stations in Fairfax that will open when the Silver Line extends to the airport will be named Reston Town Center, Herndon and Innovation Center, county officials said.

Rail project officials say they assume the final station will ultimately be called Dulles International Airport. The remaining two stations coming to Loudoun County in the second phase haven’t been named yet, but Loudoun officials will have input, said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.

Stessel said Metro officials wanted Silver Line station names to help “create a sense of place” in the same way the Orange Line’s Courthouse station name created a distinct community in Arlington.

“We’re not looking to name it what it is,” Stessel said. “We’re looking to name it what it will be.”

Stessel said he hasn’t heard any public feedback — good or bad — on the new Silver Line station names.

“When you look back 20 years from now,” he said, “people will refer to that part of the county as Greensboro, as if it always was. We’re creating a place.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two of the survey options included “Greensboro Park” and “Spring Hill”

 

 

 

 

Katherine Shaver is a transportation and development reporter. She joined The Washington Post in 1997 and has covered crime, courts, education and local government but most prefers writing about how people get — or don’t get — around the Washington region.
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