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The Silver Bullet for the Silver Line: Leadership

By August 5, 2014 January 8th, 2020 News & Viewpoints
Silver Line map

With the debut of the Metro Silver Line’s first section, it’s instructive to look back at when Dulles International Airport opened a half-century ago. At the time, many locals snickered: who in the world would trek so far out in the boonies to catch a flight? You might as well take a ship across the pond.

Well, the foresight of leaders who spearheaded the airport has been borne out many times over.

Between 1966 and today, passenger growth soared from 1 million to 24 million, and that revolution in flight served as a catalyst for the tremendous economic prosperity the Dulles corridor enjoyed over the past several decades.

With twice as many airport passengers anticipated by 2030, the Silver Line is much needed to help handle the surge in fliers. Additionally, plans to provide access to the airport from the west and projects like VDOT’s Bi-County Parkway, which would provide a sorely needed north-south connection nearly to the doorstep of the airport’s west side, are necessary for our region to stay mobile and fulfill its remarkable potential.

Assuming history holds true, the Silver Line will be a harbinger of an even brighter future. Like other recently completed major transportation projects – the new Wilson Bridge, the Intercounty Connector among them – the Silver Line will make it far easier to navigate our congested region, while also helping foster a renaissance in northern Virginia’s commercial and residential landscape.

As such, the recent celebration over the launch of Silver Line passenger service is duly merited, for accomplishments of this magnitude don’t just happen. They are achieved only with eyes-on-the-prize strategic vision supported by don’t-take-no-for-an-answer sweat equity. While vague plans for Dulles rail were drawn up back in the 1960s, only over the past two decades has the enterprise  been seriously pursued. During this period, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, a succession of Virginia governors, numerous Northern Virginia elected officials and a host of other supporters regularly stuck their necks out to build consensus for action.

They built that consensus by thoughtfully engaging residents and other stakeholders – putting the public interest at the center of this massive public works project at every step. The success of the Silver Line is fresh testament that proactive, creative and inclusive public outreach is a must-do for all large and/or sensitive infrastructure projects.

With the first phase of the Silver Line now enabling riders from all over our region to reach activity hubs like Tysons Corner and Reston, the second phase will allow them to travel to the airport and beyond in 2018.  With easier and often faster trips, the community wins big with the Silver Line.

Hats off to the leaders who are making it happen.

John Undeland, senior vice president and partner, leads Stratacomm’s infrastructure practice.

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