Zachary Schrag awarded National Endowment for the Humanities grant

by Janelle Treon-Raikes

George Mason University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences is pleased to announce that Zachary Schrag, professor in the Department of History and Art History, has received a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) award for his proposal, “Rail Against Sprawl: A History of Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.” 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.

NEH received many strong applications for the Danger and Opportunities of Technology program, and only 13% of proposals were funded. The proposed one-year project is for $75,000.

In his 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,” Schrag said. 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 the Special Collections Research Center at George Mason University. Special Collections holds key archival material that Schrag is using in his research, including the papers of the Dulles Corridor Rail Association and of Congressman Frank Wolf.