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“Can you believe this day has finally arrived,” an ebullient Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Dist. 11) enthused at last Saturday’s transit center open house and ceremonial ribbon-cutting at the new Wiehle-Reston East Station—the final stop of the Silver Line’s Phase I.

The first reference to the Silver Line was in 1962, recalled Connolly, who represents the 11th congressional district, including Reston.

“We did not rush into this project,” he quipped. On a more serious note, he added, “This is going to serve our community for generations to come, our quality of life.”

In addition to Connolly, the event, which served as a warm-up to the official Silver line opening this July 26, drew a whole panoply of other equally euphoric area dignitaries as well as a garage full of potential Metro users.

Longtime Reston area delegate, Ken Plum (D-Dist. 36), was among those who lauded the accompanying mixed-use development being constructed by Comstock Companies above the station and parking garage. Describing it as a model public-private partnership, he suggested that it is setting the standard for the rest of the country.

In addition to daily Silver Line commuters, the site, he emphasized, will be bustling with residents, hotel guests and office employees living and working immediately above.

“Without the partnership approach, this would not have happened,” he said.

Likewise, for Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the coming of the Silver Line is “one of the biggest transportation breakthroughs” not only in the county but the country.

Fairfax, she noted, now has every form of transportation except boats. “This demonstrates a real sea change in the modes of transportation to connect the region without getting behind the wheel of a car. … This is an innovative demonstration of how we can make things happen,” she said.

Open-house visitors got up-close looks at how to access the trains at the new station, the seven-level underground parking garage (cavernous and still in need of better signage), the bike locker room, and Connector buses and their bays. Also available were members of a number of transportation-related groups offering hands-on advice about the new line’s various options.

Among those seeking information was Meg Copernoll, a 10-year Reston resident. “This is a great day! I definitely plan on using it,” she said, intently examining a map charting Silver Line bus service.

“Mike G,” a 24-year Reston resident, was mulling whether to give up his car in favor of Metro. In the field of government relations working in Ballston, he said. “I’m very much considering it. We’ll see how it works.”

A voter advocacy coordinator for the state League of Women Voters, Therese Martin, who moved to Reston in 1972, is looking forward to taking the Silver Line “primarily to get into town” with her husband to more often visit museums and restaurants.

Jonathan Kleinwaks, a 31-year resident of Reston, might be the ideal for those who want commuters to entirely give up their cars. A veteran runner and new bike commuter, he rode to the open house on his bicycle to be one of the first to sign up for bike locker space.

Kleinwaks, who works at the Navy Yard in D.C., has his commuting strategy already mapped out: He plans to ride his bicycle three miles to the station, take the Silver Line to the Smithsonian stop; from there he will run up the Mall and the West Lawn of the Capitol three more miles to his job. In the evening he will simply do it in reverse. In total, he estimates “one-hour of exercise and the rest [45 minutes] reading on Metro.”

Also a strong proponent of biking rather than driving to the station, Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, who served as the event’s moderator, received a special keepsake from Bulova, a bike locker key ring with the number 001.

Anticipating the region’s future growth and the Silver Line’s Phase II, taking it out to Dulles airport, Peter Rogoff, United States undersecretary of transportation policy, thanked Fairfax County for “leading the way.”

He cautioned, however, “We need to invest and prepare for that growth, or that growth will overwhelm us.”