MR. JONATHAN WILSON
We'll turn now to the world of planes, trains and automobiles as we bring you our regular transportation segment, "From A to B."
MR. JONATHAN WILSON
And joining us for that is WAMU transportation reporter, Martin Di Caro, who has some news we've been waiting on for years. Hi there Martin, thanks for joining us.
MR. MARTIN DICARO
Oh, Jonathan, glad to be here.
So that long awaited news has to do with Metro's Silver Line. The systems first new line since 1991. Now, construction began in March of 2009, here we are June 2014. So is the Silver Line finally ready?
Well, big expectations for me to deliver here, almost, it's almost ready. It seems, this really has been a soap opera, at times. Each week, a new development, either bringing us closer or threatening another delay. But on Monday, Metro, finally is expected to announce when the Silver Line will open and it is looking like late July, early August for the first passengers out to Tysons in Reston.
So part of the issue has been all of the problems that contractors have had to fix. Remind us what some of the problems were and how they've gotten fixed?
Well, the lead contractor, Becktel (sp?) and its subcontractors are required to fix a host of track signaling and construction issues, some are more important than others. The list was dozens of items long, a to-do list that was part of an agreement between the airports authority and Metro, back in April. That agreement was designed to get the project moving, to get it to our summer opening.
So Metro's general manager, Richard Sarles had this to say about the contractors progress, during their conference call, earlier this week.
MR. RICHARD SARLES
We have dates we plan against and as I've said before, that's, in fact, true of any construction schedule, you have dates you plan against. But when you set a firm date, it's based on the progress you've made, up to that point. And now we're getting to the point where the work is done this week that is scheduled to be done and my level of confidence will be high enough to establish a firm date.
So Sarles sounds confident, at this point, but we've known for two weeks now that Metro's been eyeing, possibly, late July for the Silver Line. Jacky Jeter is the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, local 689. She told WAMU, Metro leaders inform the union to have train operators and station managers ready for trial runs on July 20.
MS. JACKIE JETER
We have a July 20 simulation service date, that's what we have. So unless they come to me and tell me, we're not ready to go and the service is not going and the pick is cancelled, then we're set to go. And when I asked him about it today, he told me that we're still on board. So that's what we're going with.
Okay. So it sounds like we're finally ready to move past the drama of completing the project...
...to actually moving commuters through Northern Virginia. Remind us, where will the Silver Line stop, at this point?
Well, there will be four stops in Tysons Corner and moving west, the final station stop will be in Reston at Wiehle Avenue, not quite all the way to Dulles Airport, yet. You'll have to take a bus or shuttle from Reston to Dulles.
So, of course, Silver Line supporters have long talked about the idea of how this rail-line will transform the region and especially Tysons Corner, can you talk about that?
Well, right, you know, Fairfax County envisions a city of 100,000 residents and 200,000 employees in Tysons within the next 25 years.
Okay, so sizeable number. So how are all these people...
...actually supposed to get to and around Tysons, once they get there?
Yeah, sorry. The Silver Line is the centerpiece of all this. It's a very good question 'cause traffic in that area is pretty bad now. And planners, certainly, don't want everyone driving to the stations to take the train. Now, a lot of people drive or take buses to Tysons already, 100,000 people work there on any given weekday. So to answer your question, there will be parking lots at the western most and eastern most of the five Silver Line stations. The lot in Reston will be permanent, the lot at McLean station will be temporary.
So you're saying, no permanent lots at any of the four Tysons stations?
That's right. To connect rail commuters to Tysons Corner, Metro, Fairfax Connector and other transit agencies have added several bus routes to drop people off right at those station stops. For those who still need to drive or want to drive, there is Reston and the temporary lot at McLean.
So what if I want to just go to the mall at Tysons Corner, park my car and hop on the Silver Line from there?
Well, I'll let Michael Caplin, the head of the Tysons Partnership answer that question.
MR. MICHAEL CAPLIN
This is not commuter parking, this is shopper parking. Each property owner who has a parking lot is making their own plans about how they're gonna manage the commuter parking. And I have a feeling that a lot of plans are still in development because no one really knows what the demand, on the parking, will be.
So Mr. Wilson, the malls are gonna be looking out for you and commuters who may want to try to nab free parking. Caplin says, the buses will drop you off right at the station, so it's more convenient than parking at a mall and walking to the Silver Line.
All right. So let's move from the Silver Line to a simpler way of getting around, of course, by foot is what I'm talking about, the lack of pedestrian safety on some D.C. roads seems to be gaining a lot of attention. Lately you visited one intersection in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, what brought you there?
Well, I'll tell you in a moment. I first want to briefly address this issue, you're right. Pedestrian and bicycling safety is receiving more attention lately because so many D.C. residents are getting around without cars now.
It makes sense. D.C. has a lot of car-free households, right?
That's right, 40 percent are car-free according to the census. So I visited Maryland Avenue Northeast at the intersection of 7th and D Streets, a librarian had been run over by a taxi-cab. She was badly injured but will survive. And when I looked into the story, residents started telling me how dangerous that corner has been for years now. Lets listen to how Beth Bacon, a mother of young kids, describes crossing the street there.
MS. BETH BACON
Well, I choose my crossing carefully and I take my kids, ask them to stand on the corner while I step out and look and see if there are cars coming or if the cars will stop. And then if there's -- if I feel like it's a safe crossing, I take them but often I hold their hands and I tell them to go quickly and it's a heart-stopper every time.
So what has the city done about it?
Until recently, very little except studying it for three years now. DDOT's been studying, changing the layout of several intersections in the Maryland F-quarter and recently installed improved signage at crosswalks but not until our story aired did DDOT update its blog, promising to finally move forward on more substantial safety improvements.
Is it safe to say that there are problems in the neighborhood that can be found elsewhere?
A group of D.C. residents and safety advocates are actually forming a new pedestrian rights group called, All Walks D.C., to try to focus the Districts attention more keenly on this issue.
And I have no doubt you'll be keeping close tabs on their work. Thanks so much for joining us, Martin, and be sure to walk safely out there.
Any time, Jonathan.
In a minute, a mysterious mural and one D.C. groups fight to save its home from redevelopment.
We don't really know who the artist was, what the rest of the thing looked like. There's a lot of unanswered questions.
That and more is coming up here on "Metro Connection," on WAMU 88.5.
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