On a typical weekday, 13,682 customers board Orange Line trains at the Vienna Metro Station.
By the end of the day, Metro estimates just as many travel back. And until this week, those some 27,364 passengers filed onto just two escalators and an elevator, creating gridlock on the platform and a bottleneck at the exit gates -- neither of which are ideal day to day, let alone in an emergency.
On Thursday, Fairfax County and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority officials unveiled a new staircase both to improve access to trains and offer customers more options at what they called the busiest station on the system's Orange Line.
"It's a safety issue as well as a matter of convenience," said Fairfax County Sup. Linda Smyth (Providence), who cut a grand opening ribbon across the staircase entry with Sup. Cathy Hudgins (Hunter Mill), WMATA General Manager Richard Sarles and WMATA Rep Jim Dyke (Virginia), who noted the stairs also offer an option for riders looking to add more movement into their day.
"It's great exercise," he said.
The $1.7 million staircase, paid for with part of a $2 million bond approved by Fairfax County voters, took nearly a year to complete: construction began in June 2011 and ended this May.
It's the second staircase added by the system this year, said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. Another set of stairs were added further along the Orange Line at Foggy Bottom Station, alongside the three escalators at that station's single entrance.
"This is an indication of what happens when you work to improve transportation," Hudgins said. "We're excited about the improvements and this really represents the partnership between Fairfax County and Metro -- we're looking to make this an example of [how other improvements can happen]."
For photos from the ceremony, click through the media gallery above.