New Metro Blue Line in Alexandria (Rosslyn), Virginia

In the middle of December (2017), the Metro Board decided to back the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority on a contract of $2 million to increase the Blue line into Rosslyn, an urban neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia. This changes Metro’s 2013 plan of that included the extension of the Orange and Silver lines (south of the Pentagon) without stopping in Rosslyn. This change in the plan is to increase the allowed amount of trains on all three lines (Blue, Orange, and Silver). This is a good example of project restructuring and overall a great move by the Metro Board. However, as some one that grew up in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area, I know the negative side outcomes of Metro increasing its projects. As a side effect, the change to the 2013 plan will greatly increase the rush hour traffic in the area during the construction phase of the plan. The trade-off this is that in the future there will be less cars on the road after the altered project’s completion. Additionally, this proposed change is still in the planning face because, the $2 million put up by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority is only the minimum. This new addition to the project will likely cost somewhere in the billions of dollars to fully complete. For Metro to get this money allocated to them they will have to go through Virginia Legislature. The will only increase the speculated critical path of Metro’s plan as a whole. Getting through Virginia Legislature will likely be a great task because most of the politicians in Northern Virginia are thinking with a short-term mindset, especially those that hold a seat of power in the areas that will be most affected by the increase in traffic. Another negative to note is the fact that Metro (especially in Virginia) is well known for having to increase their overall deadlines for their projects. The deadline increase is likely due to the length of the critical path. I speculate that the change in Metro’s 2013 plan will be no different from previous projects in the area. The increase will occur in all phases of the project. First being the underestimate of the amount of time a funding bill will take to get passed through Virginia Legislature. The other problem being the amount of time allotted for the construction phase. Which again is something that Virginia Politicians will keep in mind when they are decide whether to vote yes or no. One thing that I think Metro should look into finding a way to crash cost. Although this will likely increase the overall budget needing to be improved, this will likely increase the amount of people they can get to work on the construction. The increase amount of people for construction will in turn increase the productivity of the project and eliminate some of the short-term issues like the increase traffic. This project will also bring in more revenue to Metro, something that they are already concerned with as they have announced a rate increase in price which will be implemented later in 2018.

4 thoughts on “New Metro Blue Line in Alexandria (Rosslyn), Virginia

  • February 7, 2018 at 9:12 pm
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    This Metro project is interesting because it is very applicable to this area. I also live near NOVA and the daily commute is a nightmare. The traffic leading into D.C. has been named some of the worst in the area. I feel like there are always projects going on that try to fix this problem. In my town there is no metro access to D.C., but a few years ago they installed HOV lanes. This article I found explains some of the issues before and after that project took place (https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2014/03/putting-price-dcs-worst-commute/8653/). I always find it kind of amazing that construction projects always seem to take way longer than promised. From what we’ve talked about in class that is a rookie mistake, and I would think that people who have been doing this for a long time would get better at estimating project length, or at least would overestimate it so customers wouldn’t get upset. Yet even though the project took longer than expected, people were really happy with the end result because it made the commute much better. I think the same will be said with the new metro changes. Even though it is difficult at first with the extra construction and money put into the project, it will be well worth it in the end. I think the biggest obstacle for the project manager will be managing people’s expectations and letting them know that the commute will get worse before it gets better, but when it does get better it will be worth all the hassle.

    • February 7, 2018 at 10:27 pm
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      This issue is of commuting and having to expand transportation for cities worldwide is an interesting one. New York and Washington DC are big, old(er), more well-established cities, which makes sense that as they grow, it is harder and harder for their governments to move things around in order to expand transportation. However, it’s interesting that smaller, newer cities still don’t learn from these places. Initially, it may seem very inefficient for them to grow public transportation and just rely on the fact that people commuting often don’t currently have an extremely high level of traffic, but as the city grows, this may not continue to be the case. In Atlanta, the public transportation is really bad and people continue to choose to drive as a result. My friend’s dad often talks about how his friends sit in traffic during rush hour for up to 4 hrs just to travel less than 30 miles. I think cities need to spend more money initially on these public transportation services in order to make them more efficient and less costly in the long run.

  • February 7, 2018 at 9:55 pm
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    This is a very relevant and real problem not just for the metropolitan D.C. area, but also cities all around the world. When I was abroad, the Roman government was running into issues trying to expand it’s metro lines quickly and at a low cost. It seems to me that all governments are able to get through the stages up to planning but are extremely ineffective at monitoring and controlling their projects. It seems to me that every time that a government has a plan, the outcome is far slower and more expensive than they originally anticipate. It is possible this is purposeful in order to get the plan approved, however from an operations management view, monitoring and controlling are the areas that they could greatly improve. I completely agree with Tyler that the metro system should figure out a way to crash cost. Commuters would be more understanding of higher costs for the project to move faster. Considering projects to this scale are almost always over the projected budget, commuters would likely give a lot more room for just how much they are willing to pay for an expedited project.

  • February 8, 2018 at 7:09 am
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    Large infrastructure projects are the most famous for going over time and over budget. In this case, it seems like Virginia has a long way to go and isn’t willing to put its money where its mouth is. Being from Boston, the home of the Big Dig, I am quite familiar with the long arduous process of reforming a cities basic infrastructure. The Big Dig is one of the most famous examples of a massive cost and time overrun on a project with estimated costs going from 2.8 billion to a realized cost of 14.6 billion. While this project focused mainly on automotive transportation around major central hubs of Boston and not subways, it shows how with poor management and discipline how quickly a project can get out of hand. Some things project managers could have accomplished was to better and more efficiently plan use of their time, to have less idling from workers and being able to crash costs and move away from the critical path. With projects that multi-faceted and large it was always going to be susceptible to project creep inefficiencies in management. It seems that in Virginias case they merely allocated the 2 million dollars as a speculative cost, in order to fully flesh out the true requirements of what it would take to produce a large expansion of the subway line into Rosslyn. This will be a very good thing for the D.C. area in general, however I would not be surprised if Virginia would wait for federal funding to get fully underway, so that major cost overruns which are likely to happen wouldn’t be a major burden on the taxpayers of the state.

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