Connolly’s Thoughts on Transportation Issues

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Provided by Peter Lineberry

Congressman Gerry Connolly

Congressman Gerry Connolly

Metrorail service along the I-95 and I-66 corridors, extending south to Woodbridge and west to Manassas, might be the ultimate revitalization project for Prince William. County officials are clearly in favor of it. But how likely is it to happen, and in what time frame?

Gerald “Gerry” Connolly represents Virginia’s Eleventh Congressional District, which encompasses most of Fairfax County and eastern Prince William, as well as part of the Route 66 corridor.  He graciously and exclusively shares his thoughts about Metro and related transportation issues with our online readers.

“Community revitalization efforts can breathe new life into a neighborhood and its residents, whether it is as simple as sprucing up a store front or a more grand scale transformation that includes improving how people get to and from the places they want to go. Few things trigger such a visceral reaction in our region as traffic and the amount of time spent stuck in it, and I have spent most of my life in public office advocating for increased investments in transportation.

“During my tenure on the [Fairfax] Board of Supervisors, and now in Congress, I have been proud to partner with Prince William County to advance improvements for interstates 95 and 66 and for expanding mass transit services. For example, the Recovery Act alone invested millions of dollars in Prince William to purchase new locomotives for VRE, new buses for PRTC, widen the Prince William County Parkway, and to make other road repairs across the county.

“Based on my experience in local government, revitalization efforts that were paired with road and/or transit improvements proved to be the most successful, and, in some cases, those improvements fueled the revitalization itself. Just look at the success of the new Mosaic District in Merrifield, where new commercial and residential developments are thriving thanks to road improvements that unclogged a notorious bottleneck and development that better ties into the nearby Dunn Loring Metro Station. Of course, the arrival of the Silver Line in Tysons sparked more transit-, pedestrian-friendly redevelopment years in advance based on the anticipation of Metro’s arrival in the region’s “downtown.” There is a synergy and excitement that is palpable when people begin to realize the return these transportation investments have on their quality of life and in delivering new amenities for them to enjoy.

“There are multiple revitalization opportunities, large and small, across Prince William. I have pushed to have a robust community discussion about the possibility of using a Metro expansion as a catalyst for those opportunities, whether it’s in the I-95 or I-66 corridors. The Silver Line had been discussed since the 1960s, but the real effort began in earnest with a feasibility study in the mid-1980s. We may be a number of years away from trains running in Prince William, but thousands of our residents already are driving into Fairfax to hop on Metro, and there is growing interest across the county for another commuting choice. Doing nothing is not an option.

“The recent action by the Prince William Board of County Supervisors to endorse this legislation is another important step towards determining whether Metro to Prince William County is in our future. I introduced HR 779 because we needed to start a conversation about studying the extension of Metro to Prince William now, so that we’re ready when the opportunity arrives. Since then, I have worked to build local support, and we’ve been successful — more than 200 people attended a community forum I organized and the Prince William Chamber of Commerce, the Dale City Civic Association, and the Town of Dumfries have all endorsed the idea. That local support is a necessary prerequisite to secure state support for going forward with the federal process.

“I know Metro is facing some very real challenges due to a lack of investment in maintenance and capital improvements. That’s why I’m proud to have fought successfully in each of the last six years to deliver $150 million in federal capital funding that will help Metro to upgrade its network and purchase new rail cars. With the right investments and the right management, Metro has said it could be ready for an extension as soon as 2025. The question is: Will we be ready? The potential return on this investment in terms of revitalization and quality of life are significant. For the sake of Prince William commuters, we have to try.”

 

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