How Much Have We Lost?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

WMATA Considers Yellow Line Extension

The following column appeared in the Mount Vernon Gazette, Mount Vernon Voice, and Patch.com on July 19, 2011:
WMATA Considers Yellow Line Extension
There has been some talk in the papers lately about the Metro and the Yellow Line. This article is an update on some of the recent efforts by your state legislators.

First, a few months ago, multiple committees of Supervisor Hyland’s Visioning Task Force cited the extension of the Yellow Line from Huntington south towards Fort Belvoir as the number one economic development priority for our area. After the Washington Post reported that Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) was updating their Metro system map for the first time in 30 years, Senator Puller and I wrote to the WMATA Board asking that a Yellow Line extension be included in the new map. In response to our letter, Senator Puller and I met with WMATA staff here in Mt. Vernon to discuss the timeframe for extending the Yellow Line.

WMATA is currently in the process of revising their long-term plans. They are exploring extensions and expansions of existing metro lines, expanding bus service, trolleys, and bus rapid transit. Basically, everything is on the table as they try to plan for the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area over the next forty years.

WMATA made clear that their next map will not reflect any new lines until the proposed lines have cleared environmental studies, are included in a regional plan, and have been officially added by the WMATA Board. That step has not even yet occurred for the Silver Line.

However, WMATA is considering an extension of the Yellow Line – along with Blue and Orange extensions as part of their long-term plan. WMATA staff provided us with a map showing the homes of people who currently use the Huntington Station parking lots. Users are stretched from Lorton and Springfield to Prince George’s County although probably seventy-five percent are located between Huntington Avenue and the Potomac River in my district. I have posted the map on my blog.

Staff also provided us planning documents contemplating proposed Yellow Line extension with stations at Penn Daw, Beacon Hill Road, Gum Springs, Pole Road, Woodlawn, Fort Belvoir, Telegraph Road, and Lorton. I have posted the map they gave us on my blog as well along with a Powerpoint presentation regarding their long term plan and other contemplated extensions of the Yellow, Blue, and Orange Lines.

WMATA is currently studying the economic, engineering, and funding feasibility of these extensions by looking at ridership, system impacts, and trip impacts. Currently, the Route 1 Corridor is not zoned for the density of 10-12 housing units per acre at station locations necessary to support a Metro Line extension – that will need to change if we want a Yellow Line Extension.

Additionally, WMATA has a $6 billion maintenance backlog that is their present capital priority. Plus, they also are looking at ridership impacts to the core of the system which will reach maximum capacity by 2025-2030without any expansion. WMATA is considering express trains, double tracks in the downtown core and/or above-ground street cars. They are also looking at facilitating cross-county traffic by circumferential rail so that mass transit from Anacostia to Mount Vernon to Tyson’s Corner would be more feasible.

Most importantly, WMATA made clear that a Yellow Line extension must be a local government priority before it will happen. We are not the only part of the Fairfax County who wants to extend Metro lines. Orange and Blue Line extensions would benefit other parts of Fairfax and Prince William Counties and they are already starting to organize with the support of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.

Moving forward, whoever is the most organized, has laid the most planning groundwork, has the most business and community support, and has the funding in place will get their line first. I am hopeful that our federal assets will put some federal funding on the table and move us up the list as compared with other extensions. However, a Yellow Line extension must be the number one priority for Fairfax County if it is going to happen before the Orange and Blue Lines.

The widening of U.S. 1 and extension of the Yellow Line is the most important way for us to bring revitalization, jobs, new retail, revitalized housing, and congestion relief to our area. Moving forward, I hope to be a leading advocate to make this possible along with Senator Puller along with Supervisors Hyland, McKay and Bulova.

If you have any questions, please send me email at scottsurovell@gmail.com. It is an honor to serve as your delegate.

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