Midst the bustle of shopping and parties, the holidays offer reflection on the year’s events, what made us happy or sad, what was accomplished, and what is left to do. The year 2014 had all of that – high spots and low points – and more.
The ultimate high spot was the July 26 opening of the Silver Line, bringing MetroRail through Tysons to Wiehle Avenue in Reston. Five decades in coming, the $3 billion project was a testament to the persistence of Fairfax County to initiate Metro service to Dulles International Airport and beyond. The vision of former Fairfax board chairs Kate Hanley and Gerry Connolly, current chairman Sharon Bulova, and the federal and state partners, especially former federal Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and his staff, was critical to completion of the project and the start of revenue service. Within two months of the opening, the Silver Line had achieved 60 percent of the ridership expected in the first year!
Close on the heels of that success was the opening of the new Bailey’s Upper Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences, a renovated office building that became the first vertical elementary school in Fairfax County. That milestone took much less time – barely nine months. Stripped to its outside walls, an entire new school was constructed in the shell in record time, and opened the first day of school in September. Third 4th, and 5th graders are in bright new learning spaces, and they love it! A Proffer Condition Amendment (PCA) has been submitted so that a gym and playground can be considered for the grounds. The original approval for the building in the 1980s mandated no changes to the exterior of the building; hence the need for the PCA approval process.
The opening of the new Bailey’s fire station 10 in October marked another investment in our community’s future. The station lost its roof in Snowmageddon 2010, and apparatus was severely damaged, but the first responders barely missed a beat. They continued to answer calls, a new station was designed and funded, a temporary facility was installed a few blocks east, and a stunning new state-of-the-art station was dedicated and opened on October 11.
Low points included too many pedestrian accidents, resulting in two deaths and several injuries during October and November. Please remember to respect crosswalks, wear white or something light at night, use your headlights, and exercise personal responsibility when walking or driving. No one should suffer the tragedy of injuries or deaths that can be prevented by taking a little extra time to get where you are going.
Another low point that will have years of negative consequences was the unilateral action by the Arlington County Council to end the Columbia Pike streetcar project to bring transit, and corresponding economic redevelopment, to the corridor. The streetcar was a regional project with great opportunity. Sadly, Arlington’s action abrogated a longtime partnership between the two counties, and set back transit operations in this part of the region, possibly for generations.
However you celebrated the holidays, I hope it was a warm and wonderful time for you and yours!
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]