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Great thoughts, or not, on Metro stops at Wolf Trap, Reston

By Robert Thomson
Sunday, June 6, 2010; C02

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Why didn't the planners of the Dulles Metrorail project include a stop at Wolf Trap or at downtown Reston Town Center, at Reston Parkway?

Regarding Wolf Trap, similar wonderful venues like Ravinia on the North Shore in Illinois have public transportation (in Ravinia's case, the train). This would allow more people to take advantage of cultural opportunities here as well as alleviate traffic that builds up before and after shows at Wolf Trap.

If parking were provided, it would also provide another stop for people to park and catch the train to go into D.C.

Regarding Reston Town Center, a Metro stop there would allow people to actually walk to work in Reston. It would also offer commuters into the city another place to catch the Metro rather than just Wiehle Avenue or Tysons.

It just seems like this whole project is being run by Tysons developers with no thought to other areas or people from the suburbs who may want to get into D.C.

-- Joan Pifer,

Great Falls

Good instincts on wanting better transit service to entertainment and activity centers in Northern Virginia. If I could go back in time and plan the new Metrorail line, I'd probably go for a stop in downtown Reston but would balk at putting one at Wolf Trap. But even my half-measure reflects an impressive willingness to spend other people's money.

Let's look at some of transportation and financial issues I'd have to consider in planning the stops. My advisers would remind me of the history. The plan for the rail line grew out of the interest in linking downtown Washington with Dulles International Airport.

The airport is one of the region's major transportation centers, but it's also an eight-cylinder economic engine for Northern Virginia. The other big one is Tysons Corner, which eventually factors into the planning. But the original focus was on using that wide median along the Dulles Toll Road/Access Road for a transitway.

The highway is the path of least resistance for a transitway. The government already owns the land and doesn't have to pay any more for the right of way, or knock down any more homes. We don't want to stray from the route we have and dip down into the middle of Reston.

Okay, fine. We've got a route. If we care about the airport service, what else do we want? We want a fast trip between the airport and downtown with no transfers and as few stops as possible. We don't want light rail or rapid bus, and we certainly don't want stops at an entertainment venue like Wolf Trap. We want a Metrorail express.

But the region has other goals, too, and besides, if we're going to get this thing done, we'll need some allies and financial partners. That's where Northern Virginia's other big center for jobs and commerce comes in.

Putting four stations in Tysons Corner compromises the goal of a fast trip for airport passengers, but it enhances the goals of strengthening Virginia's economy and turning Tysons from a space station for shoppers into a modern urban center. With 100,000 people working in Tysons, this plan also boosts the ridership potential for a heavy-rail line that will cost about $5 billion.

I wouldn't add to that expense by putting a station at Wolf Trap, just west of Tysons along the Dulles Toll Road. It would be a great way for us to get to events, but there wouldn't be enough riders to justify the expense. I'd settle for the express bus link to West Falls Church on the Orange Line.

How about adding a huge parking garage in the highway median and making it a transit center for commuters?

I'm not a fan of those station designs, like the setup at Vienna. They generate highway traffic, and the expensive garages are never big enough.

That's why I would love to see a rail link into the middle of Reston. I see those long lines of cars heading into Reston from the toll road in the morning, and I feel sure they'd love a link like that, too.

To contact Dr. Gridlock:

By mail: Write to Dr. Gridlock at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. By e-mail: drgridlock@washpost.com. On the Dr. Gridlock blog: http://washingtonpost.com/drgridlock. On Twitter: drgridlock.

Dr. Gridlock also appears Thursday in Local Living. Comments and questions are welcome and may be used in a column, along with the writer's name and home community. Personal responses are not always possible.

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