WASHINGTON - It's about to get easier for visitors, tourists and local residents to see the Space Shuttle Discovery, the Concorde and other large exhibits at the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly without worrying about tolls, parking or traffic.
A new bus service will connect the end of the Silver Line to the Udvar-Hazy Center along with the Reston Town Center, Herndon-Monroe Park & Ride and Dulles International Airport beginning on the first day the Silver Line opens this summer, Fairfax County officials announced Tuesday.
"It's the answer to our wishes," says Claire Brown, spokeswoman for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
"We consider ourselves one museum with two locations. To have the entire experience of the museum, you should really see both. So for the first time, this will be possible, to go from the two locations," Brown says.
Fairfax Connector Route 983 will run every 20 minutes, seven days a week. The first trip to the museum will leave Wiehle-Reston East at 8:43 a.m. and the final trip will leave the Udvar-Hazy Center at 7:10 p.m. Route 981 buses from Wiehle-Reston East will end at Dulles Airport as run as early as 5:53 a.m. and as late as 11:53 p.m.
A full trip from the National Mall to the entrance to the Udvar-Hazy Center would take about 1.5 hours, and would cost $7 per person with a SmarTrip during rush hour, but just $4.70 at other times.
Riders who take the bus without riding the Silver Line will pay the standard bus fare of $1.60 with a SmarTrip, or $1.80 with cash.
"Ever since we opened the Udvar-Hazy Center, which was 10 years ago, 2003, we have needed to find an economical, quick way for people to get from the building in D.C. to the Udvar-Hazy Center," Brown says.
The Smithsonian has been collaborating with Loudoun and Fairfax counties and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to figure out how to connect the two sites.
"We have found some ways for people to get around (in the past). But nothing that is as comprehensive and as quick and as often and as economical as being able to take the Silver Line and then the Connector," Brown says.
Virginia Regional Transit has run a bus, Route 83, from Dulles to Udvar-Hazy, but that route is expected to stop running this fall due to funding concerns.
Thousands of people took advantage of the bus connection from Dulles Airport. But most of those visitors were air travelers with long layovers. And Brown says she expects many more visits to the expansive hangar.
"Route 983 not only benefits Fairfax County residents who want a transit connection to the Udvar-Hazy Center, but also visitors to D.C., passengers with longer layovers at Dulles Airport, and anyone with access to the Silver Line," says Ellen Kamilakis, with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.
"Route 983 is actually saving Fairfax County money. We had been providing funding to… support operations to the Udvar-Hazy Center. But by building it off of existing Route 981 we will be saving about $18,000," Kamilakis says.
The Air and Space Museum plans to spread the word about the new option to reach the Udvar-Hazy Center, which sits adjacent to Dulles Airport and Route 28. Combined, the two sites had the most visits of all of the Smithsonian's museums in 2013.
The first phase of the Silver Line is expected to open this summer, possibly as soon as late July. The rail line will eventually extend to the airport.
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