Virginia representatives on the Metro board pushed yesterday for a late 1983 or early 1984 opening of nearly completed Blue and Yellow Line segments, as Metro planners presented options for using new railcars that are supposed to start arriving in March next year.
Maryland, which has leaned towards delaying openings and putting the first new cars on existing track to improve reliability, declined to commit itself. District of Columbia representatives tended to side with Virginia.
Altogether, staff members listed 11 options for opening the new track. They reflected the difficult trade-off the board will have to make between reliability and expansion and highlighted conflicting priorities among the jurisdictions in Metro.
Board members made no decision. Alexandria and Fairfax representatives praised "option three," which would open direct Yellow Line service between Gallery Place and Huntington, crossing Metrorail's bridge at 14th Street. This would redraw the color scheme of the master plan, which has Blue trains serving Huntington.
Car delivery schedules would allow the service to begin in November 1983 if current standards of reliability were preserved. Raising the standards would push it to February 1984 or beyond.
Staff members also said that the Red Line, the next in line to be extended after the Blue and Yellow segments, could open through to Shady Grove as early as August 1984. Improving service could push it into 1985.
Virginia board members are under pressure to secure the earliest possible date for the long-delayed opening. Board member Joseph Alexander says constituents constantly are telling him: "I want to see some results for the money we've put into the system."
D.C. also is anxious to open a second route across the Potomac to relieve pressure on Blue/Orange stations in the city, which now handle all the Virginia traffic coming through the Rosslyn tunnel.
Maryland board member Cleatus Barnett yesterday refused to commit himself on the options. Maryland's riders would benefit little from new stations in Virginia and the state is known to be more inclined to put more cars into the reserve fleet to improve reliability on the 39 miles of track now in service.
Metro now operates with 15 percent of its cars on reserve, one of the lowest rates in the industry, and so has little to draw on when cars fail.
The 11 options presented yesterday are all based on delivery of the new cars, which eventually will total 300 and double the fleet size. Metro also is considering weekend-only service to Alexandria sometime next year, using cars now in hand, as a gesture that Metro has not forgotten the city.
In a related development, Democratic candidate for the 8th District seat in the House of Representatives, Herbert Harris, said that if elected he would seek to amend future appropriations bills for Metrorail construction to speed service to Alexandria.