News & Politics

The Blue Line Could Go to National Harbor One Day

Georgetown and Ivy City could get new stations, too, in scenarios WMATA is considering.

Photograph by ellisonphoto via iStock.

Metro’s Silver, Orange, and Blue lines rely on a single tunnel in Rosslyn to travel into the District, which limits WMATA’s ability to run more trains or service the lines. Only 26 trains can squeeze through the narrow artery each hour, and adding more cars won’t help: The population in areas served by these lines is expected to grow by 37 percent by 2040, the report notes, and it expects 40 percent more jobs. Crowding, the transportation agency says, will get much worse.

So it’s begun the process of evaluating alternatives, which could take a decade or two to deliver. A report issued Tuesday outlines several scenarios:

Blue Line to National Harbor

This option would “deliver the highest level of benefits relative to the other options,” WMATA says. It would redirect the Blue Line from Arlington Cemetary into a new, second Rosslyn station. The line would go through Georgetown, another potential site for a new station, then turn south at Union Station, adding potential access to areas like Buzzard Point and St. Elizabeths, travel through Southeast Washington to National Harbor, then hook around to Huntington. It estimates the construction would cost $20-25 billion and give WMATA the capacity to add up to 16 trains per hour in each direction.

Silver Line express

This plan would construct new tracks and a new tunnel for the Silver Line beginning at West Falls Church, then into a second Rosslyn station, through Georgetown, to Ivy City, and on to the Port Towns, Hyattsville, and Greenbelt. It would cost about the same as the Blue Line to National Harbor and add up to 26 additional trains per hour in each direction.

Blue Line to Greenbelt

A second Rosslyn station (with pedestrian tunnel to the existing station), then through Georgetown, and on from Union Station through Ivy City, the Port Towns, Hyatttsville, etc. This one would cost $15-20 billion and increase capacity by up to 16 trains per hour in each direction.

Silver Line to New Carrollton

The Silver Line would separate at Clarendon and go through…you guessed it! A second Rosslyn station! Then it travels up through Georgetown, on to Union Station, and eventually along Annapolis Road to New Carrollton. It would cost $15-20 billion and increase capacity by up to 16 trains per hour in each direction.

There are two more scenarios:

The “lower capital cost” alternative

This idea doesn’t add any rail capacity. Instead, it would attempt to bolster peak capacity via express bus service and infrastructure improvements at West Falls Church and the “D&G Junction” in Maryland to allow turnbacks. This would be the most cost-effective solution, the report says, but it would depend on commuters’ willingness to switch to bus service (at least 3,000 per hour during peak times), localities’ ability to invest in bus rapid transit lanes, and finding space in downtown DC for layovers.

The “no build” option

This idea would essentially preserve the status quo. Good luck with that.

Metro will likely pursue federal funding for whatever option it selects. Metro intends to brief elected officials and boards this fall and select the option it prefers in 2022.

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.