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The work, Ethos, is inspired by community interviews and Reston’s founder Bob Simon (via WMATA)

The atmosphere of the recently opened Reston Town Center Metro station will get a boost with artwork planned for this year.

Artist George Bates is working on artwork inspired by Reston’s founder Bob Simon and the statement “You can’t have a Utopia of one.”

The artwork, titled “Ethos,” is made of ceramic grit printed on safety-glass art panels.

Areas near the entrances of the stations at Ashburn and RTC will be replaced with glass art panels with images inspired by the communities around the station and poetry by local poets, according to Sherri Ly, a spokesperson for Metro.

Here’s more from Metro on the artwork:

The artwork is multifaceted and thought of as a dialogue in which everyone can participate. Bates’ design for the station can be seen as referencing artistic movements and philosophies such as Brutalism, Modernism, Wabi-Sabi, and Universal Constructivism, or as an echo of the biophilic character of Reston’s history of natural and environmental integration, growth, and togetherness. It may also be experienced as a representation of emotional delight, as the “Play” from the “Live, Work, Play” maxim of Reston’s founding vision. Ultimately, it’s about the past, present, future, enduring ideas, and histories that transcend time.

Bates has created 10 large-scale public artworks in the U.S. and several more are in progress. His work focuses on exploring the plastic nature of systems, communities, complexities, and the reality of society in relation to art.

“Both Reston Town Center and Ashburn have similar concepts,” Ly wrote in a statement to FFXnow.

Metro expects to install the artwork in the summer, she said.

The art was commissioned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority through its Art in Transit initiative.

Four of the six new stations in phase two of the Silver Line — Herndon, Innovation Center, Washington-Dulles International Airport, and Loudoun Gateway — all have new artwork.

Several other stations also have artwork. A temporary installation called “Community in Motion” at the Tenleytown station brings a mix of color to construction barricades. It’s designed by artist Tamao Nakayama.

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The cold and rain didn’t dampen enthusiasm for the opening of Metro’s long-awaited, $3 billion Silver Line Phase II.

Yesterday marked the much-anticipated public opening of the 11.4-mile extension of the rail line from Reston into Loudoun County. Along with six new stations, this marks the first time that locals can take a train to Dulles International Airport.

Over multiple ribbon-cutting ceremonies throughout the chilly, wet November day, local officials touted the debut of the line as a “game-changer” and a “new era” for western Fairfax County and the D.C. region as a whole.

“It really is the establishment of a new identity for the Dulles corridor,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said at the new Reston Town Center station. “Now, what we’re going to see is the Dulles corridor tied together with transit in a way that was really never anticipated…We are in a new era.”

Riders, too, recognized what this could mean for the region and their daily travel.

“It’s going to change my life,” Raj Paradaar told FFXnow while riding the extension’s first passenger-filled train heading westbound. He lives in Ashburn and works near the Reston Town Center station, so he plans to ride the Metro most days.

Inside the Innovation Center station, commuters came and went, including a United Airlines flight attendant headed to work at Dulles. He lives in an apartment building across the street from the new station, along with a number of other flight attendants, FFXnow was told.

“That’s where we live,” the United Airlines flight attendant said pointing outside. “And that’s where we work…Honestly, taking a train is just much easier.”

Other riders said the extension won’t significantly affect their day-to-day habits, but they agreed it will make getting to the airport simpler.

Franconia resident Terry Rice, clutching luggage, happened to have a trip to Italy scheduled on the extension’s opening day. While planning, she realized that Dulles Airport was now only a train ride away.

“It may not change my life, but it’s going to make my life much easier,” Rice said.

During yesterday’s ceremonies, officials tried to make clear that the Silver Line extension’s impact is anticipated to go beyond simply being a link to the airport, reiterating a message that many have been saying for years.

“We have within our grasp…the ability to completely reinvent, reimagine [this corridor] as mixed-use development, as transit-oriented development, as environmentally friendly, as improving quality of life, as reducing carbon emissions, and as restoring choices for people who live in Northern Virginia,” said newly reelected Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11) at a ceremony outside of the Innovation Center station. Read More

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The future Reston Town Center Metro station will open on (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 3 p.m.) It’s official: the first train on phase two of the Silver Line extension project will take off at 1:54 p.m. from the Ashburn Metro Station on Nov. 15, Metro announced today.

The train will travel the full 11.4-mile extension from Loudoun County to Downtown Largo in Maryland.

“The start of passenger service will commence following a grand opening celebration and ribbon cutting at the Washington Dulles International Airport Station to recognize this generational infrastructure investment,” Metro announced.

The opening will be preceded by a grand opening celebration that day. Only 100 customers will have a chance to receive a “Silver Ticket” to join Metro General Manager Randy Clarke and other officials for a preview ride before passenger service begins.

Here’s how to enter for the ticket:

Share your favorite memories with us on social media by tagging us on Twitter @wmata, Instagram @metroforward, and on Facebook @Metro Forward and use #YourMetroMemory. Customers can also email us at csvc@wmata.com with the subject line: Silver Ticket Metro Memory. Submissions must be sent by 5 p.m. on Thursday, November 10. Customers will be notified by noon, on Monday, November 14. Metro will select 50 customers plus a guest who will receive a “Silver Ticket” departing Wiehle-Reston East at 1:15 p.m. direct to Ashburn where the train will officially begin passenger service.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is expected to attend that event at 11 a.m.

The first full-length westbound trip will depart from Downtown Largo at 12:51 p.m. to Wiehle-Reston East and the six new stations. Trains will run every 15 minutes from end-to-end.

Once the Silver Line opens, Metrobus 5A and the Silver Line Express Bus will be discontinued the next day.

While Dulles Airport will get the big ribbon-cutting, Fairfax County is planning to celebrate the Silver Line extension’s long-awaited opening next week in Reston as well.

County officials will gather at the office building at 1950 Opportunity Way, which overlooks the new Reston Town Center station, on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 3:30 p.m.

“Join elected officials, business leaders and community members to celebrate the long-awaited opening of the Silver Line station at Reston Town Center,” a flyer invite to the event says.

Attendees will also be able to ride the new Reston Town Center shuttle and get information on the new Fairfax Connector bus routes that will start running that day. The new lines will run between the Reston Town Center, Herndon, and Innovation Center Metro stations.

Fatimah Waseem contributed to this report.

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Metro map of service changes starting Nov. 6 (via WMATA)

The six Metro stations south of Reagan National Airport are reopening this weekend with Blue Line service replacing the Yellow Line service.

Braddock Rd, King St-Old Town, Eisenhower Ave, Huntington, Van Dorn St, and Franconia-Springfield stations will all reopen on Sunday (Nov. 6) after being closed for nearly two months. The stations were initially scheduled to reopen two weeks ago, on Oct. 23.

The closures were needed to connect the new Potomac Yard station to the main rail system, though that station’s opening was also pushed back to next year.

When service restarts this weekend, the two Yellow Line-only stations will see some changes to their normal operations.

With rehab and construction still ongoing on the Yellow Line bridge and tunnel, all trains coming and going from Huntington and Eisenhower will run with Blue Line service and be routed through Rosslyn. Trains will run every 15 minutes along the whole line, per Metro.

This is scheduled to continue until at least May 2023, when it’s expected the rehabilitation will be completed.

Most shuttle service at those stations will also stop starting Sunday, but Metro will continue to provide limited-stop shuttles that cross the Potomac during weekday rush hours. In addition, parking will no longer be free at the Van Dorn Street, Huntington, and Franconia stations.

The end of the station closures continue a week of good news for Metro.

On Halloween, the transit service announced that the long-awaited Silver Line Phase II is finally set to start service on Nov. 15. Then, Metro said that train service will increase over the next two months with the long-sidelined 7000-series trains getting back on the tracks.

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A conceptual rendering of redevelopment set to take place at the Huntington Metro station (image via Fairfax County)

Trees, steep hills, pedestrian paths, building heights, and townhomes were the most talked-about elements during last week’s discussion about the redevelopment of the Huntington Transit Station Area.

At the Oct. 19 Planning Commission meeting, commissioners and the public weighed in with their thoughts and concerns on the proposed revamp of the Huntington Transit Station Area (TSA).

The staff’s comprehensive plan amendment calls for mixed-use development including 382,000 square feet of office, retail, and community-use space, the possibility of a hotel with conference facilities, and 1,500 residential units. 15% of those units at “minimum” should be affordable, the report notes.

A bus rapid transit station is also being called for with a “large, publicly accessible civic plaza” above the station. Plus, more urban park space and “a network of high-quality pedestrian and bicycle paths” connecting to the transit stations and other amenities are also being recommended.

To make room for the redevelopment, it’s being asked that the northern parking garage be torn down.

While a decision was delayed until Nov. 16 on if to approve the comprehensive plan, a lengthy discussion ensued at last week’s meeting. The conversation included the commissioners, county staff, the Mount Vernon Site-Specific Plan Amendment (SSPA) Task Force, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), and the public.

The discussion focused prominently on the site’s challenging topography, the possible addition of townhomes on the northeastern side of the project, preserving a tree buffer, the potentially costly addition of one particular pedestrian path, and building heights.

There are a number of engineering challenges associated with the project mostly due to the Huntington Metro station being located on a steep hill.

“The most significant and defining feature of this site is the grade, from north to south. The highest point of the site is in the southern end on N. Kings Highway and it’s approximately 160 above sea level,” said Graham Owen from the county’s Dept. of Planning and Development. “In contrast, the lowest point of the site is on the northern portion along Huntington Ave and that’s at approximately 30 feet above sea level. So, there are about 130 feet of grade change along the site.”

This extra layer requires adaptation, both in terms of engineering and user experience, particularly when it comes to the building of roads, pedestrian pathways, and buildings.

“That is a hill like you’ve never seen…if you want to work out, run up and down North Kings Highway,” Franconia District Commissioner Dan Lagana noted with a laugh in midst of a discussion about how best to build paths for pedestrians.

A conceptual rendering of the southern portion of the redeveloped Huntington Metro station (via Fairfax County)

This challenge also relates to building height. If buildings on the southern end of the site are allowed to go up to the maximum allowable height of 200 feet, they could look a lot taller to those seeing the buildings from the north. This was a point of concern for several residents that spoke during the public hearing portion.

“I’d like them to really think about the height of a [200-foot] building. We can already see the parking garage over the tops of the trees,” said one resident. “If they are going to put something that’s two or three times taller than what’s already there, we will have a loss of complete privacy. I’m not opposed to development, but I don’t think that’s great development for people who have bought homes [there].”

Also, in the northeastern portion of the site, there’s currently a tract of trees that has become the subject of perhaps the most significant disagreement about the comprehensive plan.

The tract of trees near the intersection of Huntington Ave and Biscayne Drive acts as essentially a buffer between the townhomes along Biscayne Drive and the Metro station. It’s also where WMATA has proposed selling the land to a developer to build more townhomes.

Steven Segerlin, WMATA’s director of real estate and station area planning, noted that the major barriers to this project – at least from WMATA’s perspective – are financial.

“Based on initial estimates, construction costs… will be significantly greater than the revenue generated by the private developers that could possibly help pay for them,” he said.

Because of this, WMATA wants to sell the land where the trees are to developers for the building of townhomes. Both the staff report and the Mount Vernon SSPA Task Force proposed keeping the trees.

“Giving the high cost for public infrastructure needed to address the area’s lack of connectivity, the Huntington Metro site needs to generate as much revenue as possible to help pay for them,” said Segerlin. “The loss of the townhome development potential significantly reduces that revenue potential and will increase the gap funding request to the county, state, and federal government.”

He further noted that not only does Metro not have the funds to make up this gap, but the agency’s “policy does not allow it.”

Ellen Young of the Mount Vernon SSPA Task Force expressed surprise at this WMATA request. She noted, along with several residents and staff, how the trees are an important buffer between the homes already there and the Metro station. In addition, they are needed to help ease stormwater concerns in a part of the county that does have flooding.

“We had all agreed to the fact that the trees were going to stay there. And that agreement included WMATA,” said Young. “So, I think we were all caught a little off guard tonight.”

Also, a subject of concern from WMATA was a certain pedestrian path that would lead from the condo community Huntington Club to the southern portion of the development. The agency asked it not to be a “requirement” for the entire plan to move forward.

Between dealing with the steep hill and the need to potentially also build also through a grove of trees, the expense could end up being great noted Segerlin. Both staff and the task force appeared to agree that the one path was likely to be more difficult to develop and seemed open to moving forward without it.

Overall, there was considerable agreement on the goals of the comprehensive plan, which is to redevelop the area near the Huntington Metro station to make it denser, more accessible, safer, more inviting, and full of amenities available to the entire Huntington community.

“Development in this area will enhance the character of the community, increase patronage for existing local businesses and lead to reinvestment in the surrounding neighborhoods,” reads the staff report. “The area will become a place where county residents can live, work and shop without excessive dependence upon the automobile, thus realizing some of the county’s key policy objectives.”

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The extension could open in time for Thanksgiving travel.

As the county officially approves paying an additional $40 million to finish the Silver Line Phase II, fare evasion continues to irk supervisors.

At yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the county followed through on the transportation committee’s recommendation last month to pay an additional $40.25 million to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) for the completion of the Silver Line Phase II.

As noted at the Sept. transportation committee meeting, the board didn’t have much choice in the matter. In July, MWAA agreed to increase the budget for the extension by $250 million which will be largely shouldered by Dulles Toll Road users. Because the original project agreement calls for Fairfax County to pay about 16% of the overage, the county owed an additional $40.25 million.

Last month, Board Chair Jeff McKay expressed his frustration about paying even more money for the much-delayed project but noted that it was a “requirement” and the county didn’t have the flexibility to not pay it “without significant negative consequences.”

At yesterday’s meeting, though, McKay struck a slightly different tone by focusing on the Silver Line Phase II’s potential to be a “game-changer” for the region.

“We can’t understate the importance of this project to the long-term success of Fairfax County,” McKay said. “It’s a major milestone.”

There remains no set date for when the line will be ready for riders, though Metro confirmed to FFXnow yesterday that it’s on track to open by Thanksgiving with the go-ahead to add more trains.

The supervisors also took a few moments at this week’s meeting to discuss Metro’s plans to stop fare evasion. Earlier this month, Metro announced it was ramping up enforcement and will be testing new station fare gates that are more difficult to jump over.

Metro estimates that fare evasion has cost the agency about $40 million this year, or nearly a quarter of its budget gap.

Several supervisors noted that they were pleased there was finally movement on better enforcement of fare evasion. Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said there are certainly “equity issues” when it comes to enforcement, but “it has to be a level playing field.”

However, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust called fare evasion the “least of [Metro’s] challenges” in terms of securing long-term funding for a system that could be facing a $500 million funding gap next year.

“They need a plan that goes way beyond [dealing] with fare evasion,” said Foust.

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Phase two of the long-awaited Silver Line is likely slated for a late fall opening.

At a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board meeting today (Thursday), efforts are underway to complete safety and certification requirements, according to Theresa Impastato, WMATA’s executive vice president and chief safety officer.

But an exact date remains uncertain. Metro’s board will set the date for servicing the 11.4-mile extension into Loudoun County. It’s unlikely service will begin until late October, especially since simulated service that is expected to continue through mid-October.

“I know everyone in the community is dying to hear,” said WMATA’s CEO Randy Clarke, adding that the organization is entering the “red zone” towards announcing a date.

With nearly all hiring completed, onsite training is planned by September 11. Simulated service will take place between October 3 and 17, according to Lynn Bowersox, WMATA’s senior vice president.

The second phase of the Silver Line has been in the works under the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority for almost a decade now, encountering numerous delays that have frustrated local residents, business owners, and elected officials.

The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission will then approve a safety certification when the materials are submitted in the middle of October — one of the 10 conditions of acceptance of the project.

Metro’s board will then set a date for service.

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A woman gets dropped off at the Franconia-Springfield Metro station kiss-and-ride (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 10:45 a.m. on 11/3/2022) Metro is waiving fares on a local bus line and parking fees at several stations starting next month because of upcoming construction.

On Sept. 10, all Blue and Yellow stations south of the DCA Metro station will close for two major projects to complete the new Potomac Yard Station and repair the Yellow Line bridge and tunnel. The closure is expected to last six weeks, until Oct. 22.

The Metro Board of Directors voted late last week to waive all fees for those six weeks at the three stations with parking lots — Van Dorn Street, Huntington, and Franconia-Springfield. This is to allow riders to use the free shuttle service that’s being offered.

At the Franconia station, parking fees for non-riders will be waived until early summer 2023, when the Yellow Line bridge rehabilitation is expected to finish. This is to “encourage use of the Metrobus or Virginia Railway Express, transit alternatives available at Franconia-Springfield.”

(Correction: This article previously said parking fees would be waived at all three stations for the duration of construction.)

The board also did away with fares on the bus rapid transit Metroway-Potomac Yard Line through Oct. 22.

All of this came at the urging of Fairfax County staff, notes the Metro report.

While the waiving of the $4.95 parking fee and bus fare will save riders money, it will cost Metro nearly $611,000 in lost revenue, per the report.

Expected to open to riders in late fall, the Potomac Yard Metro station in Alexandria will serve both the Blue and Yellow lines. In September, new tracks will be constructed to connect the station to the main tracks along with performance and safety testing.

The Yellow Line Tunnel and Bridge rehab project will shut down the line for longer. That work is expected to take eight months, so the Yellow Line won’t operate again in Virginia until at least May 2023.

In June, Metro announced several alternative methods to get commuters where they need to go. That includes free shuttle service and increased Blue Line service for the first six weeks.

Then, on Oct. 22, all the Blue Line stations will reopen, and service will extend to Huntington until May 2023.

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Franconia-Springfield Metro station (via Google Maps)

Metro is asking the public to weigh in on changes coming to the Franconia-Springfield Metro station.

Officials are proposing to add three new bus bays and a layover facility, eliminate the pick-up/drop-off area, and reconfigure sections of road near the station as well as access to entrances to the parking garage.

Additionally, Metro is looking to add intersections with signals at Metro Access Road and Frontier Drive, along with one reconfigured intersection to help with traffic flow.

These changes are as part of the planned Frontier Drive Extension, a $180 million project from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Fairfax County. It will turn Frontier Drive into a large, four-lane divided roadway with a shared-use path and sidewalk.

The public can take a survey and provide written comments about the proposed designs until July 29 at 5 p.m. Residents can also weigh in at a virtual public hearing that Metro and VDOT will host on July 12.

The project’s intent is to better connect Frontier Drive and the Metro station to the new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) headquarters as well as other parts of Springfield.

“The project aims to relieve congestion and improve access to the Franconia-Springfield Metro station, the Springfield Mall and Town Center area, the General Services Administration (GSA) complex, the Northern Virginia Community College Medical Education Campus and the new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) building on Springfield Center Drive,” reads VDOT’s project page.

It was first proposed back in 2017, but this is the first opportunity for the public to hear about proposed designs. Designs are expected to be approved by the fall, according to the project page, which doesn’t list a construction timeline yet.

The proposed changes and additions of three new bus bays comes amid decreased ridership for the Franconia-Springfield Metro station over the last decade.

Even prior to the pandemic, this particular Metro station saw quite a dip in riders. In 2011, there was an average of 7,600 daily entries into the station, according to Metro’s own data, but that was more than halved by 2019, when there was only an average of 3,400 daily entries.

When asked whether Metro hopes ridership might bounce back with the Frontier Drive changes and TSA headquarters’ move, a spokesperson was unable to provide comment by publication besides noting that any projections would be “highly uncertain due to unpredictable effects of the pandemic.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Still waiting for Silver Line Phase 2… (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Updated at 9:40 a.m. on 6/9/2022Metro could announce an operational readiness date for the Silver Line extension “within the next several weeks,” interim CEO and General Manager Andy Off told the Board of Directors’ safety and operations committee today (Thursday).

Earlier: Capital Rail Constructors — the builder of phase two of the Silver Line — estimated that the long-delayed project could be handed over to Metro by July 29.

The forecast — which is simply an estimate and would still ultimately be determined by Metro — was provided in a monthly report with data from May 1.

The estimate comes as Metro declines to provide a date for when service of the 11.4-mile extension into Loudoun County will begin.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is managing the project before it is accepted by Metro, announced that the project was substantially complete in November.

Before a service date is announced, the project has to clear rounds of testing. A date of operational readiness and final acceptance of the project is ultimately in the hands of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s board.

The latest monthly report forecasts a final acceptance date of July 29. But it’s unclear if that is the current target.

A WMATA spokesperson told FFXnow that the date of operational readiness is “declared solely by Metro.”

“We do not have an estimated date at this time,” said Ian Jannetta, a spokesperson for WMATA.

CRCis responsible for the design-to-build aspect of the stations and the tracks while Hence Phelps is managing the rail yard. Six stations are planned as part of the extension into Loudoun County.

MWAA’s hesitance in providing an estimate for when phase two will be completed departs from its past practice of providing general estimates.

The authority had hoped that trains would begin running this spring, but a county transportation official later shared that a summer opening was anticipated for the project, which has been besieged by missed completion dates.

WMATA’s safety and operations committee is expected to discuss the issue at a 9 a.m. meeting tomorrow (Thursday).

A report by the committee states that Metro is working with MWAA to “reach mutual agreement on a path forward and schedule towards resolution” of issues flagged by both parties.

Items that remain include training, labor arrangements and contractor work. WMATA is also working on the failure of heat tape, which prevents ice buildup on the rail during precipitation.

MWAA is working on a remediation plan for the heat tape issue, and WMATA might have to step in to implement the strategy.

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