MR. ROB SACHS
Welcome back to "Metro Connection," I'm Rob Sachs.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
And I'm Rebecca Sheir. And now, it's time for our weekly segment where we learn all about moving around the D.C. region, "From A to B."
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
In the world of transportation, perhaps no one dreams bigger than the folks who envision ways for us to get around. In other words, urban planners.
These are the people who dream up big things for cities, like creating new parks and designing new ten-lane highways.
But being an urban planner isn't always a walk in a park. It can be tricky. I mean, sometimes it takes years, even decades, to see how your plans work out.
Well, this week, we're opening up an urban planning time capsule, so to speak. WAMU transportation reporter, David Schultz, recently met a man in Fairfax County, Va., who was an urban planner 40 years ago.
MR. DAVID SCHULTZ
So first off, I should get this out of the way. David Edwards is, well, not old, older.
MR. DAVID EDWARDS
Oh, I have a something like Methuselah, I suspect. I'm 73, at this point.
Edwards moved to this area in 1966 when he took a job in suburban Fairfax County as an urban planner. Today, with a population of more than a million people, Fairfax has sky scrapers, big businesses and lots and lots of traffic. But back then, Edwards says, things were a little different.
When I was a young planner here, I was assigned to this western part of the county and I first discovered that people are getting around by horseback out here.
Yeah. Some of the places that we know well today were little country stores in the old days. And kids would ride their horse to the country store to get an ice cream cone in the afternoon. That was before they learned about driving Mazaradi's to the same store.
Edwards' job was to figure out where Fairfax's economy and demographics were heading and plan accordingly. Some of the decisions he and his colleagues made show amazing foresight. For instance, when Fairfax County was dining the dullest toll road in the mid to late '60s, they spaced the northbound and southbound lanes so a rail line could pass through the middle.
We heard that there was going to be some sort of a rail system proposed that would serve Dulles airport. It took a while to actually materialize, but we thought it was a good idea back then.
Construction on the first phase of the Dulles Metro rail project is scheduled to wrap up in 2013. But while Edwards foresaw some things, he says he missed many others. For example, back in the '60s when Fairfax was, for the most part, a bedroom community, he never would've imagined that someone would live outside the county and commute in. Now, 10s of thousands of people do that every day. And another development Edwards says he didn't see coming, lots of the commuters are women.
Suddenly, women entering the workforce, the employment just mushroomed at that point. And the cars on the road just mushroomed because every family had to have at least two cars to get back and forth. These are things we really didn't anticipate. We had, I guess, not enough vision.
The county had plans for more highways to accommodate all those mushrooms Edwards mentioned. Some plans even called for a second beltway. Why do you think that didn't happen?
Politically, people said, not in my backyard.
Edwards says politics also stunted the growth of public transit in Fairfax County. After all, why did Metro choose to route the Orange Line through the sleepy town of Vienna and not the booming office park of Tyson's corner? Overall, though, Edwards is pleased with his decades long career and he's optimistic about the future of the D.C. region, just as long as his successors figure out how to deal with its ever growing population.
That has to be accommodated, somehow we could scatter it to the winds as we have been doing, making it hard to get to or we could concentrate.
At 73, Edwards is still deeply involved in civic affairs in Fairfax, though not professionally anymore.
I've been retired for a while, but you got to keep going in the community so I keep trying to participate in community activities.
Then, well, I think you have a ways to go. So...
I hope so. I plan to keep going.
And that's David Edwards for you, a planner to the end. I'm David Schultz.
To hear what David Edwards has to say about how the D.C. region will look 40 years from now, visit our website, metroconnection.org, for a bonus interview.
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