If you live in Reston these days, you could get the impression that your community has somehow picked itself up and moved into the District.
Reston Land Corp. is telling you that Reston is now all but an extension of the Mall. Bumper stickers and buttons are being passed out that say, "Welcome to Reston, D.C."
The key to this is not some unrecorded movement in the earth's crust, but a road. And in Northern Virginia, where roads are at least as important as crustal movements, possession of a new one is no small matter.
So Reston promoters seem bent on annexing the just-opened Dulles Toll Road. Reston Land Corp. is in the middle of an expensive and controversial advertising blitz that has dubbed it the "Reston Expressway."
The campaign has both angered and amused developers and public officials and confused residents of Northern Virginia. Some folks are fiery mad, but some of those most offended agree that the road needs a different name. Merely calling it the Dulles Toll Road does not accurately describe the area it serves, they say.
The ads have twitted development in Tysons Corner by proclaiming "good news for companies who feel forced into a corner. . . . Until now, if you wanted a suburban office location with access to Washington, the best you could do was Tysons Corner." The opening of the new "expressway" puts Reston "20 minutes from the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge," the ads say.
"It really took a lot of guts to run those things," observed one Northern Virginia Realtor, who said he laughed until his sides hurt when he first saw the ads.
Next week an ad scheduled to run in the Washington area will tell "the 900 companies who had the foresight to locate next to the Reston Expressway" that "your driveway is ready."
Fairfax Supervisor Martha Pennino, within whose district Reston lies, said she thinks the ads are "clever. It is not a dishonest ad. They Reston Land Corp. did dedicate land for ramps and toll booths," which she estimated to be worth "a couple of million dollars."
"I find nothing wrong with it. I would prefer that people would come and live and work there," rather than commuting to Reston from other areas, she said. She said she is not anxious to see Reston lure more commuters on the road. One of the main reasons the toll road was built was to help relieve traffic congestion in the Tysons area, Pennino said.
Michael Was, general manager of Reston Land Corp., said the aim of the ad campaign and bumper stickers is to "point out that Reston is now a part of the whole Washington metropolitan area. Reston is 20 minutes to town. Reston feels close-in, not far out."
Some Fairfax officials who say bond money paid for the road's construction protest that the Reston Land Corp. may be taking things a bit too far.
And Loudoun County officials and developers are downright peeved.
James F. Brownell, chairman of the Loudoun Board of Supervisors, says there is a chance of "overkill" or "backlash." During opening ceremonies for the new road earlier this week, Brownell said, "Remember, despite what The Washington Post and Reston folks think, this road goes to Loudoun County."
"From what I hear, these words express the sentiments of a lot of people out here," Brownell said Thursday.
Developers in the Tysons Corner area who were the target of that recent ad about being boxed "into a corner" are upset, but they can still manage to laugh about the campaign. The ad showed almost a full page aerial photo of the Tysons area at peak rush hour, with heavy traffic trying to get from office parks onto main arteries. Because of the shadows when the photo was taken, the ad took on a mystical feeling, but its designers said it was not doctored or altered to make the situation look worse than it is. However, ads that ran before the toll road opened showed cars traveling on a road that was empty because it wasn't yet opened.
"The name 'Reston Expressway' is offending a lot of people. I do not like it and I don't appreciate it," said James Lewis, president of Tycon Developers and head of Tytran, a coalition of Tysons-area developers that was formed to seek solutions to that area's traffic problems.
"When they start attacking a sister area of the county, that is another story, too," Lewis said.
Wayne Angle, the H-L Land Improvement Venture executive seeking to get Fairfax County to approve his company's massive Tysons II development Oct. 15, managed to see some good in the Reston ads. He said the ad showing traffic at Tysons "makes our case" for the $14 million in traffic improvements H-L Land plans to make if the Tysons II project is approved.
"Why not call the road the Tysons-Dulles Toll Road since the road runs from the Tysons area, where it connects with I-66, and ends at Route 28, east of Dulles Airport?" asked another Tysons developer.
That would be great news for a controversial development that is proposed for a 15-acre site near the main toll booths at the Springhill Road interchange. That project has run into deep trouble over density and height. Ironically, the name of the development company is Tysons-Dulles Limited Partnership.
"Oh well, Dulles-Tysons Toll Road would work," the developer said.
How about, "Chuckie's Lanes?" suggested one person familiar with Gov. Charles (Chuck) Robb's insistence that the road open on time even though Fairfax officials had asked the state to delay the opening until work on the road was finished.
"Just where is the Reston Expressway?" asked June Bachtell, director of development for Loudoun County. Developers and officials agree the current name is confusing and misleading. It confuses those who were accustomed to using the Dulles Airport Access Road to get to the Dulles Airport. That road is still there, running in its old lanes in the middle of the new toll lanes. There are no toll charges on the airport road.
"I used to drive to the airport at least once a week, but I used Route 7 this week," said one Vienna woman. "I thought you had to pay even if you were going to the airport."
Tom Mohr, president of the Washington-Dulles Airport Task Force, said one thing the Reston campaign has done is to bring attention to the new road. He said the toll road brings the Roosevelt Bridge and the District closer to the Dulles Airport rather than bringing the airport closer to D.C. His job is to increase airline carrier and passenger use of Dulles Airport.
"The toll road is for commuters. The Dulles Airport Access Road is for those using the airport or having business at the airport," Mohr said. He said that difference has been lost in all the talk about tolls.
Several developers and elected officials contacted this week said the ads for the "Reston Expressway" simply "do not make sense." They ask, "Where are the signs leading to a Reston Expressway?" In fact, there are few signs in place at this point telling drivers where the toll road is.
There is always the possibility of calling the road, "The CIT Parkway" because both Loudoun and Fairfax officials are eagerly awaiting construction of the state Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) on Route 28 near the terminus of the toll road.
Someone suggested using the "Fairfax Expressway" as a possible name, but that won't work because what has become known as the Springfield Bypass is officially the Fairfax Parkway.
The Reston Expressway ads are a way of saying to those who live in metropolitan Washington that Reston is a part of D.C. The ads, "by comparison, play up Reston's strengths," Reston land executive Was said.
Was is obviously pleased with the attention the ads have generated even though the attention includes criticism. He said his company's campaign will be good for the whole region. "It is kind of like the recent Wendy's ads that challenged other fast food restaurants with their 'Where's the beef?' ads."
The ad campaign was created by the Richmond-based advertising firm of Siddall, Matus & Coughter, which, in fact, has an office at Tysons Corner.
John Siddall said he is pleased with the campaign thus far and promised Washingtonians more of the ads. There are six or seven more full page ads planned. Each of those ads cost approximately $11,000, he said. Reston Land Corp. does not plan to run the ads outside the metropolitan area.
"The real purpose was to try and interest people to move their businesses out there. We decided 'Why don't we tell everybody where the road goes?' " Siddall said.
He defended the ad that focused on traffic problems at Tysons. "All the ads are somewhat light in character," he said. The campaign is targeted at people in the Washington area -- especially people who live outside Virginia -- who are not familiar with Reston and who still see Reston as many miles away from the city, Siddall said, adding: "We wanted to find a way to deal with this without boring people."