Could the Metro extend from Fairfax to all the way to Marine Corps Base Quantico?
That is the question state transit officials are hoping to answer with a state-funded, $2 million study of one of the most traffic-blighted corridors in the United States – the region between Quantico and Springfield, where Interstate 95 meets the Washington D.C. beltway.
Several potential options are being considered by Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation officials to alleviate traffic congestion in the area, including proposals to extend Metro’s Yellow Line, Blue Line or bus rapid transit service from northern Fairfax to Dumfries.
Officials presented partial findings to the public on Tuesday, the first of several public meetings that will be held ahead before the DRPT turns over its final report to the Virginia General Assembly on Dec. 1.
The study, when published, will compare the costs, benefits and impacts of each potential transit option to inform recommendations about future investment in the study area.
Among the options being studied are extending the Metro Yellow Line from Huntington to Quantico; extending the Metro blue line from Springfield to Quantico; extending bus rapid transit service along U.S. 1 from Fort Belvoir to Quantico; increasing the frequency of Virginia Railway Express trains between Washington D.C. and Quantico; and express bus routes between destinations in eastern Prince William and northern Fairfax.
The study was spearheaded by Sen. Scott Surovell, D-36th, and Del. Elizabeth Guzman, D-31st, during the General Assembly’s 2020 session. Surovell, who participated in Tuesday’s meeting remotely from a Washington Nationals baseball game, said the study could get the region one step closer to reducing its traffic congestion.
“I represent people with the longest commutes in America. We’re going to solve that. We're going to solve it through transit. And this study is exactly how we're going to get it done,” Surovell said. “If we could get any one of those things done, it would be huge.”
Tim Roseboom, DPRT’s senior program manager for Northern Virginia, said Metro system capacity and extending Metro are key parts of the study, as are the region’s two military bases, Marine Corps Base Quantico and Fort Belvoir.
“We're interested in access to activity centers throughout the study area, but particularly we want to recognize the importance of the military bases. Fort Belvoir and Quantico are key activity centers within our study area,” Roseboom said.
Northern Virginia is expected to continue its rapid population growth over the next 25 years, and the study corridor between Quantico, Huntington and Springfield is no exception.
More than 442,000 people currently live within the study corridor – and the population is expected to grow to 550,000 by 2045, according to Dalia Leven, a DRPT official.
“Traffic congestion is a major issue and is going to continue to get worse in the corridor. So, we want to see if we can address that with some improved transit,” Leven said.
Officials pointed out that all the data presented Tuesday was collected before the COVID-19 pandemic, and that, “given the pandemic and the changes in the short-term on travel behavior, we know it's important to think about how changes in future travel behavior could affect the study outcomes.”
Once the study is complete, Prince William and Fairfax counties would need to change their comprehensive plans to incorporate specific modes of transit identified in the study and update land use policies to encourage zoning for densities necessary to support the level of transit identified in the study.
The study has received support from several Prince William County supervisors, including Chair Ann Wheeler, D-at-large, who called the Blue Line extension a “game changer.”