Saturday, April 19, 2008

You Might Say I'm a Dreamer...

After devoting quite a bit of time to discussing the future of regional rail here in the Baltimore-Washington Region, I'm finally finished with my major rail transit plan. And, it appears, not a moment too soon. In Saturday's edition of the Washington Post was an article forecasting crowded trains in the future without some serious improvements.

As I noted in my post on regional rail, this plan is constrained by a sense of feasibility and political palatability. At the same time, it is clearly beyond the current resources of the region. Yet, in my opinion, it represents a possible and desired outcome which could be achieved. I chose the segments of the rail system based on today’s circumstances and tomorrow’s potential. That is to say that I limited my proposal to what could be supported today rather than what will be needed two decades from now. This plan only includes "major" rail transit investments, meaning heavy (metro) and light rail. I hope to have a plan for streetcars forthcoming.

Heavy Rail (Metro) Expansion
Silver to Dulles
The Silver Line to Whiele Avenue is Metro's most likely next step. The last hurdle before the start of construction is FTA's Full-Funding Grant Agreement. And while there have been some issues and controversies, I am hopeful that the project will move forward. It is certainly one of the most important projects in the region, although I will not rank them in any particular order in this post.

Between Rosslyn and East Falls Church, the Silver Line will be multiplexed with the Orange Line. It may be necessary in the future to create a four-track subway along this alignment, but that will very much depend on the popularity of the Silver Line. At East Falls Church, the Silver Line will split off to run in the median of the Dulles Toll Road to Tysons Corner (map). It will take a detour along Routes 123 and 7 to serve the heart of Tysons before returning to the toll road. The line continues in the median as far as Ryan Road way out in Loudoun County except for a brief stretch across airport property to serve Dulles.

M Street Subway/Rosslyn Redesign
Metro's biggest scheduling hurdle at the moment is Rosslyn Station. Currently trains operate through the station every 135 seconds (in each direction) which is the capacity for the station. In order to reduce congestion, I believe a new four-track station must be constructed at a nearby location. At present, the station is located under North Lynn Street. A new station could easily be constructed under Fort Meyer Drive, with a connection to the present station for use in terminating the occasional Blue Line train.

In addition to redesigning Rosslyn, a new Potomac tunnel could be constructed parallel to the Key Bridge to connect Silver Line trains to Georgetown. From there, trains would operate under M Street to Pennsylvania Avenue, which trains would use to jog south to K Street. Continuing east, trains would stop at West End (21st/K NW) and Farragut Square.

Farragut Square would see a significant redesign, and could become the key hub for the Metro system. In addition to Red Line trains currently under Connecticut Avenue and Blue/Orange Line trains under Eye Street, the Silver Line would have a double-deck station under K (with Regional Rail Subway trains on the lower level) and Columbia Pike/16th Street Light Rail trains (described later) would have a station cutting across the square from the corner of 17/Eye to 17/K .

Continuing toward Union Station, the silver line would swing from K north onto Vermont Avenue for several blocks before returning to M Street, and stopping at Thomas Circle (13th/M NW). Trains would then travel under the Washington Convention Center, with a stop at Mount Vernon Square, for transfers to the Green and Yellow Lines. Next the Silver Line would swing south under New Jersey Avenue with a station at K Street (New Jersey Avenue/NoMa). Finally making it's last street change, turning east on Massachusetts Avenue.

Silver Line passengers could change to the Red Line and Regional Rail lines at Union Station. Trains would then continue to the southeast, with stops at Capitol Hill (4th/Mass.) and Lincoln Park. At Stadium-Armory, new platforms would be constructed under Massachusetts Avenue. Most trains would terminate here, but a track connection could be constructed underground on the Anacostia side of RFK to connect trains to the Blue/Orange line before D&G Junction.

Orange Line Extension-Centreville
I propose extending the busy Orange Line west along Interstate 66 to Centreville, Virginia. A station would be included at Fair Oaks Mall and Centreville (Lee Hwy/I-66). Some Orange Line trains could terminate at West Falls Church, as is the current practice.

Blue Line Extension-Woodbridge
Trains on the Blue Line would continue south of the present terminal at Franconia-Springfield. Tracks would parallel the existing VRE Fredericksburg Line (V1) and shared stations would be located at Lorton and Woodbridge. Additionally, a Blue Line station would be included at Newington (Fairfax County Parkway).

Yellow Line Extension-Washington's Mill
From Huntington, Yellow Line trains would continue south in subway under Kings Highway to Route 1. There, a station would be constructed (Spring Hill). The line would continue south under Route 1 to Hybla Valley Station (Rt 1/Sherwood Hall Ln) and on to Washington's Mill (Rt 1/Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy).

Future provision could be made for an eventual connection via Fort Belvoir to the Blue Line at Woodbridge.

Infill Stations
New stations could be constructed along existing Metro lines in a few key places. Metro is already looking at two of these locations, Potomac Yards and Oklahoma Avenue. I include both of these in my plan. Oklahoma Avenue would be on the Blue/Orange Lines between Stadium-Armory and D&G Junction. It would become the final transfer point, and would be an above-ground station.

Potomac Yards would be a new station serving redevelopment in northern Alexandria and could become a connection to a streetcar along the former W&OD right-of-way. It would be located along the present Blue/Yellow Lines between Braddock Road and National Airport.

In addition, I propose a new Red Line station at Kansas Avenue between Fort Totten and Takoma. This station would give better access to lower income communities in Northeast DC. The industrial properties immediately adjacent to the station site would also be good candidates for redevelopment.

Light Rail
Southeast Light Rail
I propose upgrading the District's plans for an Anacostia Streetcar to plans for light rail. Starting at Minnesota Avenue Metro, the line would run south on Minnesota Avenue to F Street SE, with a stop along the way at Greenway (B St SE/Minn). At F Street SE, the line jogs over to the disused CSX rail corridor. Using the right-of-way, the line will continue parallel to the river, with stops at Randle Circle (Mass. Ave/CSX), Twining (Penn. Ave/CSX), Good Hope (Good Hope/MLK/CSX), and Anacostia Metro (Howard Rd/CSX). South of the Anacostia Metro station, the line begins following along the east side of Interstate 295. The first stop is Malcolm X Avenue. At South Capitol Street, the line begins running in-street with stops at Atlantic Street and Forest Heights (Indian Head Hwy/Livingston Rd). The light rail line turns off of Indian Head Highway (South Capitol in DC) after crossing over the Capital Beltway to parallel the Beltway toward the Potomac. A station at Harborview allows passengers to transfer to the Pink Line (discussed later), before the Southeast Light Rail turns south to follow National Harbor Boulevard into National Harbor.

Corridor Cities Transitway
In order to serve the densely developing communities along the Interstate 270 corridor in northern Montgomery County, I propose adopting the two-pronged alignment of the Corridor Cities Transitway proposed by the Action Committee for Transit currently under study by the Maryland Mass Transit Administration. North of Metropolitan Grove, my alignment follows that of the MTA. South of Metropolitan Grove, my proposal takes the light rail line through Gaithersburg and Washington Grove along the CSX right-of-way to the Shady Grove Metro. In order to reach the Kentlands, the transitway follows Redland Boulevard past King Farm, crosses I-270, curves through the business parks around Shady Grove & Key West Avenue, and then follows the Great Seneca Highway out to the Kentlands.

Purple Line
My proposal for the Purple Line is very similar to the MTA's. It will travel from New Carrollton Metro to College Park Metro following East-West Highway, Kenilworth Avenue, and River Road. From College Park Metro, the line uses Paint Branch Parkway, Campus Drive, and University Boulevard to travel west to Langley Park. From Langley Park to Silver Spring, the line is in subway under Piney Branch and Sligo Avenue. It then follows the existing Metropolitan Branch Trail to Bethesda.

Pink Line
I included this line in order to connect the suburbs of Montgomery with the jobs at Tysons, and to relieve traffic on the Legion Bridge. It does not seem to be realistic to extend the Purple Line to Tysons because the affluent neighborhoods along the Potomac would object and there isn't really a feasible right-of-way. A line from Silver Spring to Grosvenor via the CSX tracks and the Beltway is more likely. Theoretically, Pink Line trains could continue east along the Purple Line to New Carrollton. After all, I have them sharing tracks from Georgetown Junction to the Silver Spring Metro Station. Much of the Pink Line would be grade-separated as it follows the Beltway, significantly improving travel times. In a few places, it uses streets to connect areas, and would have its own right-of-way or lane with signal priority at intersections. These segments include Tuckerman Lane from Grosvenor Metro to the Montgomery Mall area, where the Pink Line would use Old Georgetown, Rock Spring, and Fernwood to connect to I-270 and the Beltway again. Within Tysons Corner, the Pink Line would jog along the Dulles Toll Road to International Boulevard with a transfer to the Metro Silver Line at Tysons Corner Station. Continuing south, the line follows Gallows Road to Dunn Loring Metro and rejoins the Beltway near Fairfax Hospital. From there it follows the Beltway all the way to Branch Avenue Metro, with transfers to the Metro at Van Dorn Street and Eisenhower Avenue. Trains would use the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to cross the Potomac, and passengers could change to the Southeast Light Rail at Harborview.

Route 4 Light Rail
This line would connect Prince George's County's government to the Metro system using the large median of Maryland Route 4. It would access Branch Avenue Metro by continuing toward DC along Suitland Parkway. Much of the line would be in the median of a freeway, and would therefore be grade separated. At the few at-grade intersections, signal priority would speed trains through the area.

Columbia Pike/16th Street Light Rail
This line would take light rail all the way from Fairfax Hills (Little River Turnpike/Capital Beltway) to Silver Spring. Along Columbia Pike in Northern Virginia, the light rail would have its own lane. At Fort Meyer, the line would enter subway, including a new subway station adjacent to the Pentagon Metro Station. From Pentagon, light rail trains would use a new bridge across the Potomac amidst the other 14th Street Bridges. An at-grade station would be included at East Potomac Park, near the Jefferson Memorial. After crossing the Washington Channel, the line would enter subway, using Maine Avenue to get to 17th Street SW/NW. A subway station is included at 17th/Independence and 17th/E. At Farragut Square, the line would cross the square diagonally, with transfers available to the Red, Blue, Orange, Silver, and Regional Rail lines. North of Farragut Square, the line would continue north under 17th Street to Rhode Island Avenue. At Rhode Island, the line would swing northeast to 16th Street to continue toward Silver Spring. The line would become a surface line again north of Mount Pleasant. The line would turn northeast onto Alaska Avenue, diving back into subway at 13th/Georgia just north of the Kalmia Road Station. Under Georgia, the line would cross the Metro Red Line, and merge with the Purple Line subway at Sligo Avenue to access Silver Spring.

UPDATE 5/15/08:
See Version 2.0 at


Reza Michael Farhoodi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reza Michael Farhoodi said...

This map is so ugly it's beautiful...some thoughts...
I like how the CCT is not one meandering line from Shady Grove to Clarksburg but that it uses Shady Grove as its central point to get to both Kentlands and Clarksburg faster.

Your Baby Blue line should go closer to the State Department (21st between E and C Sts. NW), it's criminal that no subway stop has been planned to go there throughout Metro's history.

And is that a regional rail line between Farragut West, Metro Center and Archives or a pedestrian connection? I guess it just looks a bit confusing to me.

Washington has a neighborhood called the West End? Never knew that...

Beltway Line is heavy-rail ;-)

Anonymous said...

Lots of great ideas. I'll post a link as soon as my server stops acting up :)

There's no good reason to run the Silver Line on Mass Ave east of Union Station instead of on H Street. That part of Capitol Hill is completely built out, filled with historic buildings that can't be changed, people who don't want new development, and few stores or other reasons for visitors to go there.

On the other hand, H Street is a major commercial corridor, is developing quickly, has many nearby parcels ripe for development, and would greatly benefit from heavy rail transit to bring shoppers in from other parts of the city.

I like the idea of diverting the line south to meet Farragut North better, though.

R. Michael's idea of running the baby blue line near the State Department is a great one; also, a stop there could serve the Kennedy Center, especially if they build the plaza over the E Street expressway that they want.

Dan Reed said...

I agree with the Corridor Cities Line. If people are going to move out to Clarksburg you want to give them as easy a trip down as possible. The way MTA has it set up now, it would be twenty-eight stops from Clarksburg to Metro Center. Given the choice, I would drive.

I'd ask, though, that you consider more extensions into the northeast suburbs - along Route 29 in Montgomery County towards Burtonsville and Columbia. This would be a feasible extension of your Baby Blue Line, with stops at Four Corners, White Oak, Calverton, Briggs Chaney, Burtonsville, and so on. Or an alignment that swung east from Calverton towards Konterra and Laurel (extending the Green Line? It's been proposed before".)

I'd also say that your SE Light Rail line should connect with as many other lines as possible since Nat'l Harbor is a major destination - not to mention, of course, that many people in Southeast commute towards parts of Northern Virginia and Montgomery County that would currently require at least two transfers to reach.

That aside, lovely map. I know I'm not adept enough with the computer to make one myself.

Anonymous said...

Nice ideas. I think it would be engineeringly cost prohibitive to make the Silver Line split at Rosslyn into Georgetown as it shares the same line as the orange going into the station. It would be much easier to make the blue line go into Georgetown and meet up over near RFK again with the Silver and Orange sharing where Orange and Blue used to.

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