WASHINGTON — Two northern Virginian House Democrats have introduced legislation that would authorize the study of an expansion of the Washington Metrorail deeper into the commonwealth.

Reps. Gerry Connolly and Jim Moran introduced the Northern Virginia Metrorail Extension Act (H.R. 907) to explore the possibility of expanding the nation's second-busiest subway system, citing expectations of vast population growth in the region and the worst traffic congestion among U.S. metro areas.

"Residents in Prince William and western Fairfax County already experience some of the longest commutes in the nation, and these communities will experience continued growth," Connolly said. "We need to look at solutions that take cars off the roads and provide viable transportation alternatives for our citizens. Whether or not we determine that Metrorail is the best solution, we must begin the conversation now."

Metrorail service is provided by the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority, which is funded both by contributions from the Virginia, Maryland, and District of Columbia governments and its own revenues. Metro sometimes bonds against those revenues when it needs significant spending cash, coming to market for $243 million of gross revenue transit bonds and $55 million of taxable Build America Bonds in June 2009. Metro's fiscal year 2013 operating budget states that it may need to borrow as part of its ongoing $5.1 billion six-year capital plan, but that bonds would not be issued until 2014.

The bill specifically names three line extensions. It would stretch the Blue Line along the Interstate 95 corridor to Prince William County, the Orange Line to Centerville in western Fairfax County, and the Yellow Line along the Route 1 corridor in Fairfax and Prince William Counties.

Moran said the benefits of such development would be felt in several areas.

"It's better for commuters, our economy and the environment," he said. "Every $1 invested in public transit yields $4 in economic benefits. As the population in this region continues to grow, so must our public transportation infrastructure."

Congestion on the roads has been a major talking point in Northern Virginia over the past several months, especially since the release last month of a Texas Transportation Institute study ranking the D.C. area as the most congested in the nation.

Connolly said the proposed legislation is in sync with master plans already in place at the affected localities. If it is approved, Congress will have to appropriate money for the study. The bill is currently pending before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

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