The first leg of Metrorail’s Silver Line, which would run from East Falls Church to the eastern edge of Reston, is more than a year away from opening, and already there are signs that it will spawn some of the development that advocates promised it would. But it is also clear that it may take years for some of that long-awaited growth to actually happen.
For all the anticipation of the station’s scheduled opening in December 2013, there are also concerns about the future of the next phase of the Silver Line, which would extend the line to Dulles International Airport. And some developers are biding their time while county planners work on the guidelines that will dictate what kind of development goes where.
“I would say there is a lot of interest and a lot of jockeying for position as to where the future is going to lead them,” said Mark C. Looney, a land-use lawyer who used to work for the county. “For the last decade plus, all this rail has been lines on a map, or circles on a map. You could theoretically understand it, but it wasn’t real life. Now you can understand it. But there’s not a lot of shovels in the ground.”
After more than two years of planning, a task force of county staff members, residents and property owners is still working on guidelines that would dictate the redevelopment around the new station, including an urban grid, parks and more residential and commercial development.
Meanwhile, others are anxiously awaiting a decision from Loudoun County’s Board of Supervisors on whether to opt out of the Silver Line’s second phase of construction. Several board members have expressed concern about the cost to the county and a union labor incentive the agency managing the project gave contractors. The county has until July 4 to decide.
Other stakeholders worry that a decision by Loudoun to walk away from the $2.7 billion project could delay and even jeopardize its completion. At the very least, it could create more congestion in Reston and especially around Wiehle Avenue, which was not intended to be the terminus for Northern Virginia’s newest rail line.
Public officials worry that its plans for a walkable urban community could be interrupted, at least for a time, if the station becomes a magnet for commuters from the outer suburbs.
The task force’s final recommendations — which are expected to go before the Fairfax County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors later this year for approval — could affect the type and density of development near the Wiehle Avenue station and others, including Reston Town Center, that are part of the planned second leg of the Silver Line.