Joined by Metro general manager Paul Wiedefeld, the Loudoun County Economic Development Advisory Commission focused on the future of Metro and its impact on the area during its meeting Sep. 9.
In a candid presentation before many of the county’s business leaders, Wiedefeld discussed some of the transportation system’s major challenges, saying the condition of the Metro track was “not where it needs to be.” That lead to the Safetrack program, a year-long blitz to upgrade the tracks that has curtailed ridding hours and shutdown stretches of Metro for extended periods.
He also stressed the need for a major culture change, and improvements needed in safety, service and fiscal management.
Wiedefeld also went through a wide array of other major challenges, including lost ridership, terrorism threats and labor issues, as well as the difficulties having to navigate negotiations for Metro between Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C. and the federal government.
He talked about future projects, but said many current structures pose more pressing concerns. He described a red line tunnel under the Potomac as a “maintenance nightmare.”
Eight months into his current job, the former executive director and CEO of BWI Airport offered more positive outlooks and plans for the future of Metro. He discussed new training programs and certifications for employees, as well as new ridership pass plans to attract riders.
“Metro is the future of the region. It serves everything we do,” Wiedefeld said. “That’s the way we have to think of it.”
Additionally, the EDAC discussed the future of Metro locally with Loudoun County Planning and Transportation Department Planning Program Manager Chris Garcia. He reviewed plans for zoning around the new Metro stations in eastern Loudoun, saying about 75 percent of initial planning was complete. He also stressed that plans would likely change in the next few years as the county prepares for an expected influx of growth brought by mass transit.
The EDAC reasserted its position for growth around Metro centered on walkable urban development principals. The group intends for a mixed use set up, prioritizing, in order, residential, retail and office space uses. The position further includes a commitment to higher density development than previously seen in the county, diversity in housing and flexible ordinance requirements for land use.
The group also stressed plans to avoid residential development under flight paths of planes from Dulles International Airport. Several members agreed noise from plans in residential areas could lead to major issues, and county leaders had to be extremely careful to protect quality of life in these future developments.