More Silver Line Dreaming

I live not far from the East Falls Church Metro in Arlington VA, and so I have seen some of the actual construction of the Silver Line (Metro's 17-mile extension to Dulles Airport)--which certainly makes it more real after many years of talking and debating.

Recently there were a couple of posts discussing the Silver Line and a discussion of a high-speed link from Dulles (here and here). Ideas included triple tracking the Silver Line or creating a new line along the W&OD trail.

I think there is another opportunity that planners are missing (and it's probably too late without an additional big investment), that would be really visionary. Make sure the rail infrastructure being built at the junction with the Orange Line can accommodate connections to a future line that continues southeast along Route 7 through Falls Church and Fairfax County to King Street and all the way into Old Town Alexandria. Call it the "Gold" Line. Done right, it would be underground most or all of the way and would be accompanied by land-use policies that would re-create the entire corridor.

Imagine if planners in Fairfax took the long view like Arlington did thirty years ago and created the incentives and plans that would transform this road like the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor in Arlington has been transformed. Stops would be relatively closely spaced to encourage transit-oriented and pedestrian-oriented development.

I realize this is a pipe dream, but I like to dream. One can imagine stops along the way at:
-West Falls Church Metro
-Falls Plaza
-Broad and Oak (or thereabouts)
-Broad and Washington (center of Falls Church)
-Seven Corners West
-Seven Corners East
-Near Nevius St. (close to Jeb Stuart High and several large apartment complexes and the Culmore shopping center)
-Baileys Crossroads West
-Baileys Crossroads East
-Jefferson Street/George Mason (allowing connections to the Columbia Pike streetcar line)
-Walter Reed/Beauregard
-(one or two intermediate stops along this next stretch as it crosses I-95)
-Quaker Lane/Braddock Road
-(this next 1.8 miles is all single-family residential--not sure where good stops would be)
-King Street Metro/VRE
-One or two stops into Old Town

Here's a notional map.

I'm not an engineer, so I have no idea how possible the actual construction might be. I do believe that a vision like this, though, could have a huge positive transformative effect on a big section of an already densely populated--but poorly planned and designed--area of Fairfax County. It would also connect the West Falls Church station with the King Street station, moving toward more of a web and less of a hub-and-spoke design for Metrorail, which is reflective of how our region has evolved.

Given how enormously expensive and controversial a project of this scope would be, and the obstacles that tend to stand in the way of expanding the heavy rail MetroRail system (how many years for the Silver Line? being a case in point), one could also imagine other options for this corridor with different solutions and possibly different futures.

Given that Arlington County and Fairfax County are working together on the Columbia Pike streetcar, which will cross Route 7 at Jefferson St. and terminate near Route 7 and Carlin Springs, adding extensions to that project (which is hinted at in this map), would allow for a more incremental approach. Extending the streetcar or creating a new streetcar line from the Columbia Pike streetcar line terminus near Bailey's Crossroads west to Falls Church or east to Alexandria would create impetus to improve land use and urban design along those sections (assuming smart and committed county leadership).

Effectively designed light rail would also be easier to add other linkages to, such as connections to Shirlington--either along Walter Reed Drive and Arlington Mill Road or via Quaker Lane. The line could also split from King Street with another line along Braddock Road to the Braddock Road Metro, then connecting north to Potomac Yards. Arlington County has also been looking at the possibility of a Pentagon City to Potomac yard streetcar, so these two could then tie together. These kinds of additions and extensions would be much more difficult with a Metrorail type project.

This road, Route 7/Leesburg Pike, is not just a traffic disaster in Tyson's Corner, but pretty much for its entire length east from there to Alexandria (try navigating Seven Corners most anytime!). It cannot be fixed with more or differently configured asphalt. It requires a new and imaginative vision--a vision that takes advantage of and builds on the density that is already there.

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