Del. Greason calls Rail to Dulles a ‘pet project’
State Del. Tag Greason (R-32nd) called Metro’s Silver Line extension to the Dulles airport and into Loudoun County, widely seen as one of the most significant infrastructure and transportation initiatives in the country, a “pet project” Friday at a Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce PolicyMakers event.
Speaking directly to a question about the Silver Line project, often called Rail to Dulles, Greason bemoaned the actions of his colleagues who “held hostage” the state budget in the 2012 session for a specific “pet project” in their region. Greason said this was the “worst practice” legislators could get into.
“Because I guarantee you next year someone else is going to have their pet project that is going to cause them to hold the budget hostage and we will quickly become Washington D.C.,” Greason said. “And that is the worst thing we can possibly do.”
Greason, who represents a large portion of Ashburn, where two Metro stations are expected to be located, said, “If we continue to go down a path in Virginia of saying, ‘I want my pet project for my individual region buried into the budget and I won’t vote for education or health care or medicaid or anything else unless my pet project gets funded,’ I think that is irresponsible.”
The local delegate said the commonwealth transportation board is the appropriate mechanism through which major transportation projects should receive funding consideration.
The $5.6 billion Rail to Dulles project is being paid for by the commonwealth of Virginia, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), the federal Department of Transportation and Loudoun and Fairfax counties. Rates along the MWAA-operated Dulles Toll Road are expected to double over the next decade to help pay the authority’s share.
During Gov. Tim Kaine’s term, the Silver Line extension was split into two phases to help get the project off the drawing board. Phase One of the track, running through Tyson’s Corner and into Reston, is expected to be completed in 2013 or 2014, while Phase two, extending track into eastern Loudoun County’s Ashburn, is expected to finished around 2018.
Given the infrastructure project’s proximity to the nation’s capital and a major international airport, a number of elected officials—notably those in the heavily-congested Northern Virginia—have called for more state and federal dollars to be allocated to the construction costs.
Late in the General Assembly’s 2012 special session to finalize the budget, Northern Virginia Democrats, including Sen. Mark Herring (D-33rd) and Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st), pushed the state for more funding for Phase Two. Herring proposed a state budget amendment calling for an additional $500 million for Dulles rail.
But Gov. McDonnell objected to more state funds and the commonwealth’s contribution remained at $150 million.
Commenting at Friday’s event, Del. David Ramadan (R-87th) called Dulles rail “probably the most important economic development project in our area.”
“Plus it’s probably the most important transportation project we’ll see in our time,” Ramadan said, adding that he’s optimistic more state funds for the project will become available.
A spokesman for Herring’s office, Adam Zuckerman, said the senator would “strongly disagree with the characterization” of Dulles rail as a “pet project.”
“Sen. Herring has said repeatedly that Rail to Dulles is a project of great local, state and national significance,” Zuckerman said. “That is why he has fought so hard to secure significant additional state funding for Phase Two in order that the project is completed and to keep tolls at a reasonable rate for Dulles Toll Road users.”