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Reston @ 50: Transportation In and Around Reston

Reston was intended to be both drivable and walkable and one in which motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists would not interfere with one other in daily travels. A network of walkways and trails for pedestrians and bicycles connected homes to the individual village centers and Reston villages to each other. Automobiles, a necessity in the Northern Virginia area, had their own street system which featured underpasses and overpasses for the separate walking and biking routes.  Simon, who personally disliked the appearance of large ground-level parking lots, insisted that automobile parking be assigned to the rear of houses and village centers, or underground wherever possible.  

Originally, there were five main roads in Reston: Baron Cameron Avenue, Reston Avenue (now known as Reston Parkway), Sunset Hills Road, and North Shore, and Fairway Drives. Baron Cameron Avenue (SR 606), on the north end of Reston, runs east to west and once provided the main approach to the town from Leesburg Pike (SR 7).  Most drivers used the Baron Cameron and Leesburg Pike route to travel to and from Reston during the early years. More recently, however, road construction projects have created new access points to Reston.

Paths for walking and biking, an important  part of the original Reston concept formed loops around village centers and connected Reston pedestrians and bikers to schools, shopping, work places, churches, recreation centers, etc.  The ten miles of walking trails that existed by 1970 have grown to fifty-five miles today.

Though Reston was designed as a place to live as well as work, the reality was that most of its residents still worked somewhere else other than Reston, often in Washington, D.C. or a nearby suburb. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Reston had no commuter bus or rail service.  The Washington & Old Dominion Railroad (W&OD) line, which began near West Virginia, made a stop in Reston at the Sunset Hills station, and continued westward ending up in Alexandria.  Unfortunately, the W&OD ceased operations in 1968.

At about the same time, the Reston Community Association (RCA) with some help from Gulf Reston, created the Reston Community Bus Service (RCBS).  RCBS was a commuter bus “line” which was chartered from a local bus company.  It was partially funded by the RCA and Gulf to take Reston commuters into and back from Washington, D.C.  A few years later a local bus system named the Reston Internal Bus System or RIBS came into being. RIBS was a series of vans and smaller buses which took people throughout different parts of Reston. It was begun by the Common Ground Foundation, a faith-based community action group started by Embry Rucker, Reston’s Episcopal minister.  RCA picked up sponsorship of RIBS sometime later.

Transportation both to and from Reston has benefitted from additional road projects during the 1980s and 1990s.  The Dulles Toll Road (SR 267), which was completed in 1984, buoyed Reston development by prompting purchases of land in Reston along the new road by several high-technology companies.  These companies used the land to build offices and, in some cases, company headquarters.  Reston rapidly became an attractive destination between Washington, D.C., and nearby Dulles Airport.  It also made Reston accessible to other major highways, such as Interstates 66 and 495. Moreover, the Wiehle Avenue interchange on the Toll Road added an additional bridge over the Dulles Access Road improving connectivity between the northern and southern parts of Reston.

The Fairfax County Parkway (SR 286) winds its way along the western edge of Reston.  The four-lane, thirty two-mile highway links U.S. Rt. 1 near Ft Belvoir in the south and Leesburg Pike (SR 7) near Dranesville at its north terminus.  First envisioned in 1950, the Parkway became part of the National Capital Planning Commission’s comprehensive plan at about the same time Robert Simon purchased the Reston property.  Known at the time as the Outer Circumferential Highway, Simon and his planners included the road in original master planning documents.  The Parkway crosses Interstate 95, Rt. 123, Lee Highway (SR 29), Interstate 66, Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway (SR 50), and the Dulles Toll Road (SR 267).  By 2001 Reston’s Sunrise Valley Drive, Sunset Hills Road., New Dominion Parkway, and Baron Cameron Avenue were all served by the Parkway.

Reston’s newest transportation development is the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.  The project will create the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority’s (WMATA’s) new Metrorail Silver Line. A raprid transit line from Washington to Dulles Airport running along the Dulles Acess Road right of way  was part of the early 1960s planning for the Metrorail system.  Simon's original master plan envisioned a station at the intersection of Reston Avenue (now known as Reston Parkeway) and the Acess Road.  The new Silver Line will travel along the Dulles Access Road and terminate in Loudoun County, making two stops along the Access Road in Reston. The eastern stop will be at Wiehle Ave, where a large multi-use building complex called Reston Station is being built, and the western stop will be at Reston Parkway near the Reston Town Center.   The Wiehle Avenue station is scheduled to open in 2014, while the latter is scheduled to open in 2016.

Reston @ 50: Transportation In and Around Reston