- The Washington Times - Friday, May 4, 2001

Metro planners yesterday proposed a rail line that would go into Georgetown to ease overcrowding in the next 25 years, and the transit agencys board endorsed a plan to extend rail to Tysons Corner and to Washington Dulles International Airport.
"We will need some new line capacity that doesnt exist yet," Metro General Manager Richard A. White said, indicating that may come as soon as 2015.
Areas where planners would like to expand Metro service include east-west rail lines to Georgetown and the Districts convention centers, and another line to Union Station. Also being considered: a north-west line to Georgetown and to the west end of the District; a line and more stations offering access to the Mall and Capitol Hill; and a line in the upper Georgia Avenue corridor.
"The required additional capacity can be realized by building several new line segments and/or expanding the choices of line connections," Metros director of transit system development, Nadeem Tahir, told the boards planning and development committee.
Maryland board member Carlton R. Sickles, who has worked on getting the Metro system built since 1955, said he is not surprised the transit agency is again looking at putting rail stations in Georgetown — a plan residents and city leaders rejected 40 years ago.
"They just feel sort of left out," Mr. Sickles said. "I think its a question of a lot of people want to go there."
Mr. Sickles said adding a rail line and stations in Georgetown and other parts of the District makes sense because the hub-and-spoke design of the current system doesnt meet riders needs. Metro officials said a rail-line segment in Georgetown most likely would take the form of light rail.
Other options presented by Metro planners yesterday include:
* Expanding current stations capacity.
* Using eight-car trains to carry more passengers.
* Improving existing lines to move more passengers.
* Expanding rail yard and maintenance storage.
"By 2020, ridership will exceed capacity" on the Blue and Orange lines, Mr. Tahir said, even if Metro runs eight-car trains. The Red Line will need to run eight-car trains by 2015 and the Green and Yellow lines will need eight-car trains by 2020, he said.
Metro currently runs four- and six-car trains; extra cars could carry hundreds of additional riders.
Mr. Tahir read from a report on the systems core capacity, on which Metro officials are focusing to assess how the most heavily used part of the subway — 29 stations in the District and Virginia — will handle an expected influx of riders. Metro anticipates as many as 1 million rail riders by 2025.
Metros subway averages more than 600,000 weekday trips and grew by more than 7 percent last year. Mr. Tahirs presentation was the third briefing the board has received since the study began about a year ago. The final draft is expected in the fall.
About 700,000 riders a day use Metros core stations, and planners say that number will grow 103 percent by 2025.
Meanwhile, Metros planning committee approved a revised plan that takes another step in making rail to Dulles and Tysons Corner a reality. The estimated 23.5-mile, $2 billion project is expected to be completed by 2010, but must go through a series of studies before the first track can be bolted down.
The new report stems from a series of public hearings held throughout last year, and several alternatives for the rail-line extension, which could included nine to 12 stations, were discarded as a result of public reaction.
Project manager Len Alfredson said one idea taken off the table was to have a rail line go into the Reston Town Center. Another scrapped idea was to have bus rapid transit (BRT) go through Tysons Corner — the first part of getting rail to Dulles and Tysons by 2005.
"There really arent that many options with BRT," Mr. Alfredson said after the planning committee meeting.
One board member, however, was concerned the rail-line extension would strain the Orange Line, which already has crowded cars during rush hours. "There are people today who cant get a seat," said board member Christopher E. Zimmerman, a Democrat on the Arlington County Board of Supervisors.
Metro officials estimate that rail to Dulles and Tysons will attract 82,000 new riders, and Mr. Zimmerman said he is sure some of them will be taking the extension into downtown Washington by connecting to the Orange Line.
"We want to add the riders," Mr. Zimmerman said after the meeting. " there are physical issues getting trains in and out. (The Dulles-Tysons extension) is dependent on one of the most heavily used sections of the system."


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