This is Big!

“The Silver Line is going to be a major driver, a game changer, because it opens up the Tysons market for easy access from the entire D.C. metro region.”
NY Times 06/24/14

The opening of the Silver Line on Saturday is a major event that is an important step towards a better future for the Washington metropolitan region and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

For decades, Tysons has been an example of 20th century development, urban and suburban areas that don’t quite work — too many cars, no sidewalks and not enough green space.

The community’s investment in the Silver Line presents us with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve our travel and commutes, restore air and water quality, enhance our ability to preserve the rural economy and ultimately, transform the quality of life in communities along the new Metro line and in the region as a whole.

Immediate Benefits:
Jobs, Economy, Environment

An Increase in Transit Commuters, Improved Access to Jobs

The congestion, stress and unreliability of long driving commutes has made many jobs less accessible for residents from Loudoun County to Prince George’s County. The Silver Line will provide an improved connection to some of the highest concentrations of jobs in the region. Even a small percentage of trips reduced on the Dulles Toll Road, I-66 and the Beltway can make a major difference in congestion and commute times for those who need to drive.

Increased Access to Retail Stores, Boosting the Economy

An increase in transit access should expand the sales at both Tyson’s Corner Center and Tyson’s Galleria, which will benefit the economy and local and state tax revenues. Let’s be honest, a good portion of Virginia relies on and benefits from the incredible retail activity at Tysons. The Commonwealth has made a relatively small investment compared to the major economic return that will result from the new metro line.

Improved Air and Water Quality

Continuing to restore air and water quality are major challenges facing Virginia and the entire Chesapeake Bay region. We must continue to reduce pollution levels that are safe for all of us and the natural systems that support us. The redevelopment of Tysons and other areas of Fairfax should reduce the emissions of pollutants from thousands of cars per day and allow for improved water quality infrastructure — resulting in one of the biggest reductions of pollution into the Potomac.

Long-Term Benefits:
A Huge Shift in Land Development

We should all be thankful for the investment by the federal, state and local government, the contributions of users of the Dulles Toll Road and the innovative financing supported by commercial property owners near Silver Line stations.

Perhaps the biggest impact of the Silver Line will be the changing pattern of land development in Virginia and the region.

Handling Growth and Market Demand with Less Traffic

If the land near the new stations along the Silver Line develops as planned with a mix of residential, retail, commercial and public amenities, an increasing percentage of the population in Northern Virginia will have access to a wide range of opportunities to live, work and play without having to drive an automobile.

Reducing Infrastructure Costs and Services Demands in Outer Jurisdictions

With this concentrated growth, the need to expand utilities and services into new areas will be reduced.

At the regional level, planners for the Council of Governments expect that the development in Tysons and along the Silver Line will reduce future population growth in other areas of the region such as Fauquier and Culpeper.

Preserving and Enhancing the Rural Economy

Communities that provide rural economic services (agriculture, recreational opportunities, open space, water supply) will be under less pressure to convert land to suburban development. The potential competition between conservation strategies and speculative development proposals will be reduced. The combination of smart growth development linked to transit and Virginia resident’s efforts to conserve rural land will enable the Commonwealth to achieve a win-win outcome that meets economic, fiscal and conservation goals.

As with any major change of this scale, there are plenty of opportunities and challenges that remain such as funding the second phase to Dulles Airport and Loudoun County; making sure the promised investments in local roads, local transit, and sidewalks are made in a timely fashion; implementing the commitments on new and improved stormwater systems; and constantly working to improve the mix of uses and amenities in the new and redevelopment communities in Tysons, Reston and Loudoun.

But the fact remains that the region’s future is far better with the opening of the Silver Line than with any other investment in the past 40 years.

Let’s take time to celebrate this amazing accomplishment.

Chris Miller, President
The Piedmont Environmental Council