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Blue Line Breathing Room

Two New Pr. George's Stops Are the Last for a While

By Steven Ginsberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 16, 2004; Page B01

Nearly four decades, 103 miles of track and 84 stations after Washington's Metro got its start, trains will travel beyond the transit system's original boundaries Saturday.

The Blue Line will be extended three miles and two stops beyond Addison Road in Prince George's County.

With its wider platform and additional fare gates, the new Morgan Boulevard Station is designed to handle pedestrian traffic to FedEx Field. (Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)

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New stations at Morgan Boulevard and Largo Town Center will push service to growing communities beyond the Capital Beltway. Trains will bring riders to one of the county's emerging commercial areas and within walking distance of Redskins games. Like the Red Line stop that opened at New York Avenue last month, the Blue Line stations were developed in part to stimulate growth in the areas around them.

But the new stations also represent the end of the line for Metro for the remainder of the decade and possibly much longer. For the first time since Metrorail service started in 1976, there are no new stations or lines under construction.

The next construction on the subway line is likely to be an extension through Tysons Corner to Dulles International Airport. The first phase of that project would reach Reston no sooner than 2011.

"There's going to be a big lag here," said Metro Chief Executive Richard A. White.

Ridership, meanwhile, is at an all-time high. Metro is averaging 660,000 daily riders, including 116,500 on the Blue Line.

John Davey, a former Metro board member from Prince George's who aided the drive to open the new stations, urged leaders to continue the building program. "I think this opens the door now for a serious debate about what is next in line to be built in Prince George's County."

Davey and others said Prince George's leaders have been trying to extend Metro beyond the Beltway to serve commuters and create development almost as long as the system has been running.

Stations were supposed to go out to Largo when the system was first negotiated four decades ago, Davey said. "But in order to contain the costs, this extension was passed over. These two stations basically complete the Prince George's line."

Development has begun at Largo, where the station stands next to the Magic Johnson theaters and other attractions that have risen where the Capital Centre used to stand. Trees now flank the Morgan Boulevard Station, but a residential development of about 1,000 homes is underway, and county leaders said they hope to fill the space between the station and FedEx Field with many more rooftops.

"With the expansion, it now creates an economic prospect for this area," said County Council Chairman Samuel H. Dean (D-Mitchellville). "I think Metro tends to attract the type of employment base that allows people to work in Prince George's County, close to home."

Between them, the stations cost $456 million and are expected to add about 9,500 daily riders (6,650 at Largo and 2,850 at Morgan) drawn from neighborhoods within walking distance and commuters who will park and ride. The number of passengers could rise to 13,000 by 2010, and to more than 20,000 by 2025.

Many Metro and county officials are concerned that they may be underestimating the initial rush and that there could be a repeat of the crunch that followed the opening of five Green Line stations in 2001. Officials rushed to add rail cars to the line because the trains were so crowded.

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