It finally happened. After decades of planning, five years of construction, and months of delays, Washington D.C.'s brand-new Silver Metro line welcomed over 50,000 commuters for its opening weekend. The new 11.4-mile line, which includes five new stations, will ultimately connect the city to Dulles Airport in Virginia. That part of the line is scheduled to open in 2018. The Silver line, though, is more than an attempt to connect a city with its airport—it's the latest, multi-billion dollar effort to expand a rail system, spur economic development, and create more walkable, pedestrian-friendly destinations. So, yes, it's ambitious. And, yes, it was expensive. A host of local and national officials—including Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx—were on hand this weekend to test out the new rails, which were first proposed in the early 1960s. Many of the excited commuters on their inaugural rides told local news crews that the Silver line will significantly cut down their commute time and may even allow them to ditch their car altogether. The Metro predicts there will be 50,000 daily riders on the Silver line by this time next year, and more than twice that by 2025 when the line is connected to Dulles Airport. Of course, building an entirely new rail line comes with significant costs (and significant delays and significant cost overruns). This first section of the project cost $2.9 billion, which is $150 million over budget, and opened six months late. All told, this first phase of the line cost nearly $47,000 a foot. The second phase is expected to cost $2.7 billion. About half of the total cost of the first phase came from increased tolls on the Dulles Toll road. The remaining half is a mix of funds from federal and local levels. In between DC and Dulles is Tysons Corner—an area in Virginia that's trying to shake its reputation as just a collection of shopping malls and office towers. That is no easy task, but the powerful interests in town see the opening of the Silver line as a crucial test of whether that's even possible. “There's not much riding on the Silver Line except the future of the American suburb as we know it,” CityLab recently declared. “A half-dozen Fortune 500 companies are based [in Tysons],” explained the site. “The area is rife with high-end hotels, restaurants, and department stores; there's even a Tesla dealership coming in. But grocery stores never arrived in any substantial numbers, nor did churches or parks or any of the other sorts of services that could help make a place feel like home for the roughly 19,000 people who live here now.” To achieve that, Tysons is planning new permanent green space, pop-up parks, new trees, overall streetscape improvements, and thousands of new apartments. A key element of the Silver line's planning seems to be perfectly aligned with that goal of a more walkable, urbanistic future. But it's not what the Silver line offers Tysons—rather what it doesn't: parking. The Washington Post reported that there are no parking garages at four of the five stations in Tysons. Walking or biking to one of these stations, though, appears to be a rather hellish experience, according to Ken Archer, who works at a software firm in Tysons."I've endured the lack of crosswalks in Tysons Corner for years as a pedestrian, but assumed that Fairfax County would add crosswalks before the Silver Line began operation," he wrote on the blog Greater Greater Washington. "The county needs to create safe pedestrian pathways immediately, rather than waiting until someone gets hurt or killed."
Posts tagged with "Dulles International Airport":
These days it seems increasingly rare that we take a moment out of our busy schedules to pause and appreciate our surroundings: downtown skyscrapers, grand civic buildings, or the mundane background buildings along our streets. To many, those soaring steel towers are old news, but have you ever stopped to picture a Manhattan without skyscrapers, or a courthouse in Washington, DC that didn’t resemble a Greek or Roman temple, or how about an America without shopping malls? (Unimaginable. Right?) Dan Protress, writer and producer of the new PBS television series 10 Buildings that Changed America, certainly has. The series, hosted by Emmy-award winning producer Geoffrey Baer, proves that architecture is the cultural back-bone of any society. The show was created to celebrate and explore ten of the most influential American buildings—and the architect’s that designed them—that dramatically altered the architectural landscape of this country. Featuring buildings like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House in Chicago, which transformed the idea of the American home, the Southdale Center in Edina, MN, the nation's first enclosed shopping-center, and the Wainright Building in St. Louis, which, according to historian Tim Samuelson, “taught the skyscraper to soar,” the series delves into the history of these once radically perceived buildings and highlights the roles they have played in molding present-day American society. The Society of Architectural Historians, along with a group of architectural experts, has compiled a list of the ten most iconic and influential structures built by different architects ranging from various eras in American history: 1. Virginia State Capitol, Richmond, CA (1788) 2. Trinity Church, Boston, MA (1877) 3. Wainwright Building, St. Louis, MO (1891) 4. Robie House, Chicago, IL (1910) 5. Highland Park Ford Plant, Highland Park, MI (1910) 6. Southdale Center, Edina, MN (1956) 7. Seagram Building, New York, NY (1958) 8. Dulles International Airport, Chantilly, VA (1962) 9. Vanna Venturi House, Philadelphia, PA (1964) 10. Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA (2003) The show is scheduled to air on Sunday, May 12, 2013 at 10:00 p.m. EST. Tune in and discover the pioneering architectural leaders, breakthrough concepts, groundbreaking buildings, and touching stories that make up the architectural history of the United States. Who knows, you might just be tempted to take a moment out of that busy schedule to admire your surroundings. All images courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
No one understood airports quite like Eero Saarinen. His swooping Dulles International Airport turned 50 over the weekend and its uplifting form is still inspiring today. Saarinen was quite proud of it, too, declaring the building "the best thing I have ever done." The control tower and main terminal building at Dulles opened on November 17, 1962, formally dedicated by President John F. Kennedy. The airport was named for Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Also, if you're in Los Angeles, be sure to check out the A+D Architecture and Design Museum's exhibition on Saarinen, now up through January 3rd.