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Va. Congressman explores Metro to Woodbridge

Tuesday - 9/27/2011, 8:23am  ET

Ari Ashe, wtop.com

WOODBRIDGE, Va. - With 400,000 people living in the area, Prince William County is the second largest county in Virginia. By 2020, the number could jump to 500,000 residents. All these people mean long commutes and a lot of traffic.

"The commute is a very daunting challenge to many of my constituents," says Congressman Gerry Connolly.

Connolly hosted a Metrorail Summit Monday at Harbour View in Woodbridge to explore options to ease the traffic woes.

"The purpose was to start the discussion about whether there are investments we can make that help us create choices for commuters, besides the automobile," he says.

Connolly says the discussion is even more important as the debate over high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes is taking place.

Among the options that Connolly is considering is extending Metro to Fort Belvoir, or even as far as Woodbridge. Another would be Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along the Route 1 corridor.

"We've got a lot of people coming from the south along Route 1, especially after BRAC put a lot of people at Fort Belvoir and Quantico," Connolly says.

A third option would be light-rail, an option that could include expanding the capacity of Virginia Railway Express.

"It's very important to note that it is already at capacity. We could add more capacity, but it won't solve the problem," Connolly says. "It will drain some of the car traffic off the roads, but it's not the option."

But Connolly readily admits there is not one solution.

"Metro isn't the only option. Express Bus Service and light rail aren't the only options. It may have to involve a combination of all three."

Connolly has introduced a bill in Congress that would begin to study the options available and determine how much it would cost.

Prince William Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart says they are open to the possibility of Metro to Woodbridge.

"But we need to be up front with residents and let them know it's probably not financially feasible," Stewart says.

Stewart does support the bus option.

"It's realistic to have a partial BRT system within 10 years," Stewart tells InsideNova.com. "Once we emerge from this recession you're going to see a surge in BRT funding."

"I think it's premature to rule anything in or out," Connolly says. "The whole point to do a feasibility study is to get answer to those questions. So let's study it."

Congress would still need to approve the feasibility study, which Connolly admits could be difficult with many pressing budget issues on the docket.

"Unfortunately, so much of our decision making is in the short term. We've got to break out of that mindset and think about our long-term vision."

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All rights reserved.)