Train Approaching: New Metro line promises boost in corridor economy

All photos by Chuck Samuelson and courtesy Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project unless otherwise noted.

The train has finally arrived in the station, at least for proponents of the D.C. Metrorail Silver Line.

The line, which will connect D.C. with Dulles International Airport (America’s fourth busiest) in Virginia, could begin operation as soon as 2013.

The Loudoun County, Va., board recently gave the green light to the Silver Line project, a day some proponents thought they’d never see. Loudoun’s large financial reserves mean that the rural county’s committment to the project is critical. The Dulles project is one of many around the country being built in an attempt to spur economic growth and propel the nation out of this recession.

Thousands of D.C./Maryland/Virginia (D.M.V.) residents have waited decades for this line, and thanks to the Loudoun board’s decision, that line is closer than ever on the horizon.

The project would create a new Metrorail line between Union Station and Route 772 in wealthy Loudoun County through an area known as the Dulles Corridor. While those who oppose the Silver Line project say that the over-$3 billion price tag is too large for this recession, proponents argue that the positive impact on local business will actually help the affected towns and cities to close their ever-growing deficits.

Ever since Dulles opened in 1962, a right of way has been preserved in the median of the Dulles Airport Access Highway. Public meetings, scientific and financial studies, and land surveys have been commissioned since the millennium in preparation for the possible Metrorail line. When the Federal Transit Administration gave a $900 million grant for the project’s first phase (from D.C. to Wiehle Avenue in Reston), ground was broken on the project. The second phase, which will extend the line to Dulles and Route 772, “will open in 2016,” according to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) website.  The line will connect to the Metrorail system at East Falls Church on the existing Orange Line.

In an un-scientific survey of teens and adults conducted in July, 2012 for this article, all five participants said that they would be more willing to patronize a business within five minutes of a Metro station. Increased transit is almost always followed by accelerated economic growth. This was true when the airport first opened in 1962, and Silver Line proponents say that even more growth will follow when the Metro arrives.

“Soon after the airport opened, the corridor between the airport and downtown began to change dramatically from primarily bedroom communities and dairy farms into … vibrant commercial centers. The Capital Beltway opened 1964, triggering tremendous growth in Tyson’s Corner,” said Marcia McAllister of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project (DCMP). “[The D.C.] Metro opened in 1978, signaling rapid change for the entire region,” and transit advocates say that the same growth seen in the D.M.V. during the late ‘70s will be seen in the Reston/Dulles area when the Silver Line is completed. McAllister said via email that the Dulles Corridor is “becoming a vibrant economic golden goose.”

“The Dulles Metrorail will have a positive impact for businesses … in the corridor. The rail stations will encourage more focused development, attract top-rate employers–and the jobs that come with them–and connect … area businesses,” says the MWAA, a close partner with the DCMP. Similar projects country-wide prove that today’s metropolitan centers are focusing in on transit as a way to spur the American Economy for the future.