- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

With its $4 billion price tag, a light-rail line to Dulles Airport is right up there with a proposal to equip each area commuter with his very own personal hovercraft. Both might ease gridlock were it even remotely possible to fund them. Yet, area transit officials such as Metro General Manager Richard A. White and several notable Virginians including Rep. James P. Moran and former Sen. Charles S. Robb continue to vigorously push the light-rail idea, while more earth-bound, realistic measures go wanting.
Even after being told this week by Federal Transit Administrator Jennifer L. Dorn that Uncle Sam would be unlikely to put up the billions needed just to get the project started, Messrs. Moran, Robb and White continued to wax rhapsodic about the 24-mile boondoggle. "It will happen," Mr. Moran told The Washington Post the other day. "I think my grandkids are going to be able to take rail all the way to Dulles…"
Yet, Mr. Moran and the others would do more for area commuters slogging through ever-worsening gridlock by abandoning the impossible in favor of the possible including structural reforms to Metro that would result in the more efficient use of the capacity it currently has, but which it as yet has not made full use of. Metro, as reported here and elsewhere, cannot even manage to run the trains it has on time, or operate the eight-car trains the system was designed to run. Frequent breakdowns and delays are a fact of life for Metro riders many of whom have abandoned the trains in favor of driving, daunting as that prospect may be.
Another possible solution might be toll lanes, or the use of so-called congestion pricing in some form. Both hold the promise of easing gridlock during peak times. And, simply making the small but often critical improvements to existing road networks synchronizing traffic lights, constructing new merge lanes, etc. would go a long way, and at relatively minimal cost. The point is that area transportation officials need to get down from Cloud 9 and back to the real world one where $4 billion is still a lot of money.

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