On Saturday, Washington's Metrorail system opened the doors on its largest service expansion in 20 years, the new Silver Line. The long-awaited line brings rail transit service to a whole new set of Northern Virginia communities, including the ever-popular Tysons Corner and extending west to Reston. Eventually, the second phase of the Silver Line will extend all the way to the region's largest airport, Dulles International, and beyond.
It's a significant $3.14 billion investment in the region's future, supported in part by $900 million from the Federal Transit Administration's Capital Investment Grants program --formerly known as New Starts-- and $75 million from other DOT programs.
Why undertake this investment? Well, if you've ever had to commute on the area's busy roadways, that question is an easy one. The Washington Post reports on its website that commuter Chuck Ramey is hoping to trade what can be a two-hour drive for a 50-minute train ride. Ramey, who made the jump from driving to transit commuting just this morning, estimates that the cost will be comparable and is "delighted" to have an alternative to driving.
And he won't be alone. By 6 a.m. today hundreds of riders had already joined Ramey in a rail commute that will make travel faster, less stressful, and more convenient for tens of thousands of passengers each day.
Better travel isn't the only benefit of Metrorail's 11.7 miles of new service, five new stations, a new 2,300-car commuter parking garage, 64 new rail cars, and an expanded rail yard. New development is already underway. Nine mixed use high-rise buildings are currently being built in the Tysons Corner area, Virginia's largest business district encompassing four of the new stations. And since 2010, more than 4,200 residents have moved into Tysons Corner in anticipation of the new transit service, with tens of thousands more expected to follow.
As Deputy Federal Transit Administrator Therese McMillan said at Saturday's opening, "With continued population growth expected over the next 20 years, the Silver Line is an excellent investment in the Washington region's transportation future."
And --with bipartisan support and state, local, and regional cooperation-- it's exactly the kind of investment this nation needs to continue making in the years ahead. Connecting thousands of residents and visitors with major employment, education and economic opportunities throughout the region is an absolute recipe for future success.
What isn't a recipe for success is having to battle and cajole Congress every few months just to maintain the status quo. That kind of lurching in fits and starts makes it impossible for the kind of planning that went into Phase 1 of the Silver Line expansion. It makes it impossible to keep our heads above water transportation-wise, much less improve our aging infrastructure. And it makes it impossible to build the transportation network a strong economy requires.
That's why we sent the GROW AMERICA proposal to Congress back in May, and it's why I --and business leaders and transportation experts from coast to coast-- keep raising the banner of a long-term transportation bill that increases funding and certainty so communities across the country can build projects like the Silver Line to keep America moving forward.
Making these long-term investments doesn't have to be so hard. But if we're not putting those cornerstones in place as a nation, we're not building for the generations to come after us. So the Silver Line opening is an opportunity to celebrate a win for the voices of "yes' over the voices of "no.'