Schrag awarded NEH grant for Metrorail project


Zachary Schrag, professor in the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University, has received a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) award for his proposal, “Rail Against Sprawl: A History of Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.”

Zachary Schrag
Zachary Schrag. Photo provided

Schrag’s grant of $75,000 was one of the three NEH grants awarded to projects within Mason’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Schrag submitted his proposal to NEH’s “Dangers and Opportunities of Technology: Perspectives from the Humanities” program, which funds research examining technology and its relationship to society through the lens of the humanities.

For this project, Schrag is writing the history of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project to help understand the possibilities of the ambitious efforts to reshape daily transportation choices. In his proposal, he wrote that the bold undertaking of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project was to give “airport passengers, airport employees, commuters, residents, and shoppers an alternative to constant driving, and to cluster development into transit-accessible nodes instead of the suburban sprawl that characterizes so much of Northern Virginia and the United States.”

“My hope is that the story of the Dulles Corridor rail will serve lessons from this attempt to give Americans new choices about how to live and how to travel,” said Schrag, who is also the author of The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro.

He will explore two main questions in his research: How did the creators of this project overcome suburban skepticism about transit? And how did they do so in an era of fiscal austerity?

Schrag plans to use this research to complete his fifth book, Rail against Sprawl, which will narrate the story of the project from its “conception to completion...blending the concepts from the history of technology, the history of planning, and policy history.”

Additionally, he will continue to work on the “Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project Oral History Collection” to be housed by Mason’s Special Collections Research Center. Special Collections holds key archival material that Schrag is using in his research, including the papers of the Dulles Corridor Rail Association and of former Virginia congressman Frank Wolf. 

NEH said they received many strong applications for the Danger and Opportunities of Technology program, only 13% of which were funded.