The Washington Area Council of Governments has begun a $10 million project, to be paid for by Congress, to improve transportation between the District and Dulles Airport.
The project is designed to improve ground travel to and from Dulles airport, and is based on the premise that as air travelers find it more convenient to get to Dulles, more air traffic will shift from National Airport to Dulles.
The first public hearing on the project, which also will consider ways to let Virginia commuters use the Dulles Access Road, will be held at 8 tonight at the Ramada Inn, 7801 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church.
Albert A. Grant, COG's director of transportation planning, said the study's first priority is improving access to Dulles Airport for air travelers, though public hearings also will consider ways Virginia residents can use the Dulles road to commute to the District.
A consultant for COG. Howard, Needles, Tammen and Bergendorf of Alexandria, is conducting a $150,000 study this year in preparation for the $10-million project which will run until 1985.
The solutions being considered to get air travelers to Dulles faster primarily involve improving existing bus service and adding a new bus line between a Virginia Metrorail station and the airport.
Alan Zusman, project manager, said COG and the consultant are recommending "a new identity" for the existing District-to-Dulles bus service, which is run by Greyhound Airport Service.
Greyhound currently runs 25 buses a day between the Capital Hilton at 16th and K streets downtown to Dulles.
The buses take 45 to 50 minutes to get to the airport.
Zusman said that COG's immediate plans, which will cost about $500,000, call for painting the Greyhound buses to give them a new design and logo - and probably a motto such as the "Dulles Express."
Also, two new buses will be purchased out of the federal funds for approximately $80,000 each. They will be handed over to Greyhound to operate, though COG or the federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration will retain title.
Finally, the federal money will be used to build a special waiting area for the Dulles bus on the sidewalk at the Capital Hilton and to make changes in K Street medians and traffic signals to allow the bus to get into traffic more quickly.
These initial improvements will be completed by July, 1978, Zusman said. Grant said the consultant believes travel time on the bus can be reduced by 10 to 15 minutes.
Beyond the initial changes, COG and its consultant plan to use the rest of the $10 million on a new bus service to run from the end of a Metrorail line in Virginia to the airport. Also, a fringe parking lot will be built near the Metro station.
The Metrorail "K-line" in Virginia, originally planned to go to the Falls Church area, is now being restudied, and a line to Tysons Corner is being considered. Wherever it ends, Zusman said, a new bus service will connect it to Dulles Airport. Using the proposed fringe parking lot, drivers could skip the last 10 to 12 miles of their car trip to Dulles and take the bus instead.
Zusman said a private firm will operate the bus line from the Metro terminal, and it will likely receive help from the federal grant just as Greyhound will for the downtown line.
A secondary purpose of the study is to help persons who commute to the District from Loudoun County and areas around the airport, possibly by letting them use the Dulles Access Road.
Several thousand Virginia commuters, mostly in Reston and Loudoun County's Sterling Park development, are potential users of the Dulles Access Road, Grant said. If allowed to use the access road instead of four-lane Leesburg Pike, Route 7, many of them could cut 5 to 10 minutes from their daily driving time into the District, he said.
But Grant said that because of the general Policy in the region "to discourage single occupant car driving," any commuter use of the Dulles Access Road probably "would only be for commuters who are ride-sharing, by car-pooling, Van-pooling or riding buses."
Commuter use of the Dulles Access Road could be accomplished in several ways, Grant said:
Car pools and buses from other roads could feed directly into the access road, which in turn would take them into the Beltway. If I-66 is built, car pools and buses would follow that highway into the District after it intersects with the access road.
Fringe parking lots could be built near the airport, so that commuters could drive to them and pick up express buses or from car pools. Buses from the access road could be arranged to feed into the Metrorail system.
A commuter railroad or a bus line could be built on the Washington-Old Dominion railroad right of way, which runs parallel to the access raod and beyond it to Purcellville in Loudoun County. The Loudoun County residents who would come to Dulles on this right of way could then catch express buese on the access road. This would be a long-run solution for the 1990s.
Any potential commuter uses of the Dulles Airport Road would have to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, which runs the airport and so far has insisted that the road be kept free for airport users.
The consultant's recommendations for a demonstration project are due by the end of the year, but Grant said it may be 1979 or 1980 before Virginia commuters begin benefiting from any major improvements. In addition, he said the study may not recommend anything to help commuters, because its main focus is improving access to Dulles for air travelers.