In this series, Patch looks at the Silver Line, Metro's largest expansion in its 34-year history.
When the Dulles Metrorail is fully up and running — probably sometime in 2016 — it will likely have cost a grand total of about $6.5 billion to build.
And while some may balk at that price tag, several regional experts say this "megaproject" is vital to Northern Virginia's economic vitality.
"Many people likely take the ongoing expansion of Northern Virginia for granted, given how vibrant the region's economy has been over time and is today. It has become an economic juggernaut," said Anirban Basu, the CEO of Sage Policy Group.
But, Basu said, the daily gridlock that constantly clogs the region's major thoroughfares will have long-term negative effects.
"The region is steadily grinding to a halt as the traffic is increasingly becoming problematic and distressing. It is a headache and it is also unpredictable, which makes commerce difficult," he said. "This renders Northern Virginia a less attractive place to do business than it otherwise would be."
The Dulles Metrorail project will add 23 miles of rail from East Falls Church in Fairfax County, out through Tysons Corner, past Dulles International Airport and even further west to Ashburn in Loudon County.
"I think one of the misconceptions is that this is a line being primarily built for travelers to get them to and from the airport," said Zachary Schrag, an associate professor of history at George Mason, who wrote a book on the history of the Washington metro system.
"The main thing to understand is that the primary destination is not Dulles. It's Tysons Corner," Schrag said. "That's the basic idea, to serve this massive conglomeration of jobs right there."
Stephen Fuller, the director of George Mason University's Center of Regional Analysis, said Tysons Corner — which will be served by four Metro stops on the new Silver Line — is currently not accessible by rail. This means that the majority of the 100,000 people who currently work there commute by car.
"Fairfax County already has more jobs than the District of Columbia," Fuller said. "That's the future of this region and it needs to be endowed with the best transportation."
The costs to build the new Metro line are immense, Fuller recognized, but the costs of not building the extension will be greater in the long run.
"The rail becomes more important than just moving people between the end points. There's going to be a lot of local traffic on it," Fuller said. "It's a very long line. The impact on real estate values and the impact on the economy is going to pay (the project cost) back many times over."
Part Three: Will the Dulles Metrorail really improve traffic in Northern Virginia?