The Washington Post reports that The Dulles Rail project, one of the largest transit infrastructure plans in the nation, that has been "on hold" until yesterday when the Federal Transit Administration approved the final design stage. This decision will expand the Metrorail through Tysons Corner to Dulles International Airport and beyond.
This is exciting news for everyone in the area. Paul Ceruzzi, author of Internet Alley: High Technology in Tyson's Corner, 1945-2005, commented on the project and it's decade-long history.
I talk about the Dulles rail link as part of a general discussion in the final chapter of Internet Alley. I also mentioned it in the chapter on Dulles Airport history. There was a plan for a rail (monorail?) as early as
1962(!) but it never got built. Now everyone realizes that it is needed - Dulles is very hard to get to without driving.
Fortunately the land was reserved along the median of the Access Road, so at least that cost is avoided. Nevertheless, in spite of not having to condemn and buy land, the project is very expensive. That is what
caused the Federal government to balk (see below).
Where it gets interesting is that an ideal link to Dulles would go straight there, with only a few stops along the way. The Tysons Corner developers, however, want a lot of stops in Tysons, both to bring people to their buildings; also to get the county give them increased zoning that comes with being close to mass transit ("transit oriented development"). However, these two goals are incompatible: Dulles passengers don't want to ride a "Broadway local" that makes lots of stops: they want to go straight to their plane. Real estate developers don't want to spend money on a rail link that sends all those affluent
people past their buildings without stopping.
The local planners thought they had all this solved, with a set of 4 stops in Tysons and an (eventual) fast link to the airport, but last January, the Federal Transit Agency vetoed it - to everyone's surprise. Without Federal money it cannot be built. Now the Feds have apparently changed their minds.
I my book I tried to get to the basics of this issue, not knowing of course all the drama that would unfold. But I am not al all surprised about this, as I did research the underlying issue, which the local news media have not always done.
Want more? Listen to the podcast interview with Professor Ceruzzi here.