Thwarting unlikely terror attacks beats building decent transit on MWAA's Silver Line priority list
Advertisers know that sex sells. Transportation officials, however, are learning that terror sells. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which is overseeing the construction of the Silver Line, has announced it will spare no expense adding equipment to the Silver Line to thwart an extremely unlikely terrorist plot.
Certainly some monitoring equipment is reasonable, but MWAA misplaces its priorities when it decides that addressing unlikely terrorism is the only area that deserves unquestioned, limitless funding.
An MWAA spokeswoman recently told the Post, "Our position is, just tell us what we have to put in and we'll do it. We'll look at how to cover it when we get the information back." The head of MWAA's Dulles corridor committee echoed her colleague's hysterics: "Security is on the top of everyone's mind. Let's face it, regardless of what it costs, we're going to do this right."
Thwarting terrorism should not be the top priority of the people leading transit projects. They should focus their energies on ensuring that the line is designed and located to maximize public convenience and public use, to guide future development, and to be built on-time and on-budget.
While government budgets are tightening and after Silver Line projected costs have already escalated, the MWAA is in no position to design security systems "regardless of what it costs." Instead of fetishizing something that likely won't happen, MWAA should instead look at how station placement will effect the thousands of people expected to use the line each day.
The Airports Authority is looking to save millions of dollars by moving the planned Dulles Airport station hundreds of feet away from the terminal, requiring airport passengers and employees to trek 600 feet across a parking lot just to enter the main terminal. The Silver Line plan already deleted the Tysons tunnel in favor of a cheaper aerial line, even though the former would better transform Tyson into a livable city.
What's questionable is not the security apparatus MWAA wants to install, but the spare-no-expense attitude that project managers only apply to prevent something extraordinarily unlikely. Imagine if we spent that money on things that actually mattered, like tunneling through Tysons, extra escalators, or a station closer to the airport terminal.
The security budget might not cost as much as moving a station hundreds of feet, but it's worrying that MWAA is only willing to write a blank check once the 'terrorism' word appears. The Airports Authority is prepared to lavish money on infinitesimally small threats while tightening the purse strings for features that will aid thousands of people each day.
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