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FairfaxBusiness'Big things are hard': Former Fairfax board chair lauds Metro extension

‘Big things are hard’: Former Fairfax board chair lauds Metro extension

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Of the many people who have earned the right to take a personal victory lap with the extension of Metrorail service to Washington Dulles International Airport now complete, put Kate Hanley near the top of the list.

With decades of service ranging from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to the boards of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), Hanley has both followed and at times been intimately involved with efforts to bring the transit line to the airport.

And on Nov. 16 – a day after the formal opening of the second phase of Metro’s Silver Line and a day before the 60th anniversary of the opening of Dulles Airport – Hanley took to the microphone to give voice to her thoughts.

“It’s been a long haul. There were a lot of naysayers. Big things are hard and big things are expensive,” Hanley said at the monthly meeting of the airports authority, where she serves as a Virginia appointee to the board of directors.

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Hanley acknowledged “all the various hiccups we had” and thanked those who “conquered unforeseen problems along the way.”

“It’s been worth it, not only for the passengers but also for the economy of the region,” she said.

Rail service connecting Dulles Airport to downtown Washington had been proposed from the very start (the airport opened in 1962), but in the early days didn’t make economic sense even though it could then have been built at a mere fraction of today’s costs. Even powerful U.S. Rep. Joel Broyhill (R-10th) was unable to convince Congress to pony up funding despite several attempts before he was unseated in 1974.

The rail-to-Dulles proposal was rejuvenated in the 1990s, an era when Hanley was serving as a district supervisor and then chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. As part of that job, she held a seat on the board of directors of WMATA and, over the years, at various times, served on the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, Transportation Planning Board and Commonwealth Transportation Board.

In her remarks, Hanley singled out one facet of the Silver Line project that didn’t get much play during the Nov. 15 opening – the rail yard that now sits on land provided by the airports authority near Dulles.
“It’s a huge part of the whole thing,” she said.

The airports authority more than a decade ago was tapped to supervise construction of both phases of construction of the Silver Line, which expanded the existing Metro system into McLean, Tysons, Reston, Herndon and Loudoun County.

At Nov. 16 meeting, airports authority CEO Jack Potter noted that some of his staff have been involved with the Silver Line project for 14 years.
“We worked hard, we worked together,” he said. “Tens of thousands of people have contributed to make this happen.”

The effort was not without it ups and downs, so perhaps Potter spoke for all involved.

“Thank God it’s in the rear-view mirror,” he said.

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