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Since the current Silver Line proposal is “All But Dead” as one Washington Post headline puts it, I’ve been thinking of alternatives. One of them was light rail to Dulles Airport. Yeah, not as much fun as heavy rail (think regular metro cars) but at least it’s rail.

Light rail would be cheaper, to the tune of possibly $20 million a mile. But it would probably cost about the amount of Portlands rail system which was built for just under $180 million a mile. This may sound expensive but considering the original Silver Line would cost a little over $270 million a mile, it sounds a lot cheaper.

The most expensive section would be underground rail in Tysons. These 3.2 miles would add up to about $576 million, assuming Portlands cost. Assuming the rest of the line ran a little above Baltimore’s cost (take into account the construction matireals spike after Katrina) the other 20 miles of the line would be $400 million dollars. This is about one fifth of the projects cost when compared with the oringanl Silver Line, plus it includes underground rail for Tysons.

The reasons Portland’s light rail cost nine times more than say Baltimore’s light rail system is because large portions where built below/above ground with some stations 180 feet deep.

My vision for an alternative system is light rail starting at East Falls church and terminating at Route 772 in Loundon County, much like the original plan. The only differnce is riders would have to transfer to the orange line.

The first phase of this project (let’s call it the Gray Line) would go through Tysons and terminate at the WO&D trail in Reston, where it crosses under the Toll Road. The second phase (Lime Line) would go through Reston (via WO&D right-of-way), cross over to Sunrise Vallery Drive, rejoin the Toll Road near Route 28 and terminate at Route 772. The third phase would extend the Gray Line to Dulles Airport. Whereas the Lime Line takes several detours from Route 267 in the Reston/Herndon area, the Gray Line would remain in Dulles Toll Road right of way.

I’ve also added to two stations in Tysons, and five stations in Reston/Herndon. Remeber, Reston/Herndon take up more space, and have a larger population then Tysons. They are also nearly tied as employment centers with Tysons. Also this line would end where Route 267 enters Route 66. Their would be a station with a pedestrian bridge or tunnel across Route 66 with direct access to East Falls Church.

If this all doesn’t make since, you can click the map below to make it bigger.

dullesrail.jpg

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