Mount Vernon Voice
Twenty-five years to wait for a two-stop extension of the Yellow Line south along Richmond Highway to Beacon Hill and Hybla Valley?
That’s the estimated completion date as it stands today — and that doesn’t sit well with Del. Scott Surovell (D-44th) who, with state Sen. Toddy Puller (D-36th) secured funding for the Route 1 Multi-Modal Transit Study for Route 1 which calls for bus rapid transit along the corridor and Metro rail extension later.
“We’re basically saying that’s ridiculous,” Surovell told the Voice prior to a joint press conference Tuesday morning at the Huntington Metro Station with Mount Vernon Supervisor Gerry Hyland, Dan Storck, candidate for Mount Vernon supervisor and Paul Krizek, candidate for the 44th District House seat.
Surovell added that Fairfax County has endorsed the study recommendations; however, the board has also urged officials to expedite the construction of the extension of the Yellow Line.
Last October, Surovell and Hyland, as members of the executive steering committee of the Route 1 Multimodal Alternatives Analysis, signed a resolution in support of the plan which includes widening the highway from four to six lanes where necessary, creating a continuous facility for pedestrians and bicyclists along the 15-mile corridor and implementing a median-running bus rapid transit system from Huntington to Route 123 in Woodbridge and a 3-mile Metrorail Yellow Line extension from Huntington to Hybla Valley “as expeditiously as possible.”
To facilitate the expedition of the Yellow Line extension, in May the board of supervisors initiated Embark Richmond Highway made up of Mount Vernon planning commissioner Earl Flanagan, Lee planning commissioner James Migliaccio, and members of the Mount Vernon and Lee districts, including members of the Southeast Development Corporation board of directors, to act as an advisory group.
Surovell said they will use the committee’s recommendations, expected to be issued this fall, as a catalyst to get decision makers to speed up the timetable.
Speaking at the news conference, Surovell said when he was first running for state delegate six years ago, he promised that improving Richmond Highway would be his top priority.
With the final report issued earlier this year, Surovell described it as a blueprint for the Richmond Highway corridor for the next 30 years which should be used to take advantage of the corridor’s attributes, such as being among the highest elevation places in the county and describing it as “prime real estate” only seven miles from Washington, DC, and the gateway to Virginia.
Population growth is coming to northern Virginia and Surovell said the question is whether new residents will live on former farm fields in Stafford and Fauquier counties, or in places such as the Richmond Highway corridor with increased density and mass transit.
Krizek, who grew up in Mount Vernon and recalls when it was a sleepy, bedroom community where people commuted into Washington, DC, to work.
Today, he says, “folks are coming to Mount Vernon for jobs,” citing the fact that more people now work at Fort Belvoir than at the Pentagon.
“It’s time,” he said, noting that Mount Vernon and Lee residents have been waiting patiently for decades for significant investment in the corridor. “People cannot wait another 20 or 30 years.”
Storck said that public investment in infrastructure begets private investment and the time has come to make that public investment in the Richmond Highway corridor.
He noted that investment has been made in other areas in the county and northern Virginia such as Tysons Corner, Alexandria and Arlington.
“Now it’s our turn,” Storck said, promising to be “a fighter to get our fair share that’s long overdue.”
Hyland, who is not running for office, said he will be a “candidate” in support of Surovell, Storck and Krizek as they “carry the ball forward” in the months and years to come.
Hyland, as Mount Vernon supervisor for 28 years, knows that traffic is deadlocked on the corridor and transit solutions desperately needed today.
Moving the timetable forward is “absolutely essential” and the money necessary for it is justified, he said.
According to the executive brief issued in February, the timeline calls for a four-phase approach to implementation.
The bus rapid transit system, roadway widening, and pedestrian/bicycle facilities will be implemented during the first three phases through 2032, with the Metrorail extension in the 2040 timeframe.
The recommended projects would require funding from a wide range of sources including local, regional, state and federal funds, with the total cost for the first three phases — bus rapid transit all the way from Huntington to Woodbridge.
The Metrorail Phase IV is estimated to cost $1.46 billion.
Surovell believes by seeking out funding now from those variety of sources, including the U.S. Army which, through Base Realignment and Closure action, has brought tens of thousands more employees to the post, its possible to have the Metro line extension completed in 15 years, not 25.
“It can be done a whole lot faster than what’s been suggested,” Surovell said. “A whole lot faster.”