WMATA Looking to Expand

7:39 PM, Jan 24, 2013   |    comments
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From @wmata on Twitter: 'A look at the steady stream of customers exiting L'Enfant for #inaug2013'

WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- Metro has big dreams. Extensions out to the far Virginia and Maryland suburbs. New tunnels Maybe a new station in one of the oldest parts of the city.

Hit Metro's packed platforms at rush hour -- and then imagine it many times worse. In the next few decades, planners predict another 1.6 million people will move here. "That's the equivalent of putting a city the size of Houston or Philadelphia smack dab in the middle of the region," says Metro planning director Shyam Kannan.

The current tunnel under the Potomac is already maxed out. "We simply can't fit any more trains under the Potomac, so you have to do something," says Metro General Manager Richard Sarles.

So Metro's dreaming of a new tunnel under the Potomac, another through the heart of the city, and extensions to Centreville, Potomac Mills and Bowie. Maybe even a station in Georgetown, if people want it, and want to pay for it.

"It's a great idea," says Anita Jivani, who was walking in the cold on M St. NW. "I don't know how else to get here but by walking."

Urban legend has it that the people of Georgetown didn't want a Metro stop. But the reality is that it's hugely tough and expensive to tunnel through the bedrock here. "If you don't make this investment, you're making a very serious mistake about the future of this region," says Metro board member Mort Downey.

By some counts, the total price tag might run to $26 billion over the next three decades to build the tunnels, the infrastructure for longer eight-car trains, new bus-only lanes -- and maintenance on what Metro already has.

But planners say the cost of doing nothing is far higher. "This investment more than pays for itself," says Kannar.

Now the big question -- where to get the dedicated cash flow to pay for the investment?

Metro planners say this is really just a draft. Now they're going to go out to DC, Virginia, and Maryland and see what the jurisdictions want -- and what they're willing to pay for.

Written & Reported by Bruce Leshan
Twitter: @BruceLeshan

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