Loudoun chamber spearheading Metrorail advocacy
Playing the role of “Rail to Dulles” lobbyist, the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce is leading the charge to encourage Loudoun’s business community to voice support for Phase 2 of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.
“It rail doesn’t come out to Loudoun County, we are talking a generational negative impact,” Tony Howard, president of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, said. “If we really want to achieve our economic development dreams, we need to have rail here.”
The second phase of the Dulles Rail project will extend the system westward into Loudoun County and “provide a one-seat, no-transfer ride from Dulles Airport to downtown Washington,” according to DullesMetro.com.
Latest cost estimates for the total project are approximately $2.8 billion.
Preliminary engineering is ongoing for Phase 2, the result of which may lead to the preparation of a design-build construction solicitation for Phase 2.
The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors are likely to vote in April or May whether to provide a share of funding for Phase 2. Other funding will come from Fairfax County, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and state and federal loans.
Ted Lewis, a member of the Loudoun County Economic Development Commission and part owner of GeoConcepts Engineering, says the pro-rail campaign is largely to ensure people “don’t take for granted” that rail will get to Loudoun.
“While I’m confident the supervisors will make the right choice,” Lewis said, “there’s still a need to make sure the information’s out there and that people see the benefits of having rail in Loudoun.”
Lewis said he favors rail so his employees have better access to get to work.
“We have about 50 people [at GeoConcepts], and only eight of them live in Loudoun,” said Lewis. “Rail will let them get here easier.”
Howard and the Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership, which includes the Dulles Regional, Greater Reston and Loudoun County chambers of commerce, are supporting legislation in the General Assembly to increase the commonwealth’s contribution to the project.
The amendment would increase the state’s contribution by up to $500 million, which will reduce the amount of the project that will be paid by Dulles Toll Road users, according to Howard. Preliminary estimates have said toll road users could pay as high as $10.75 by 2020 for a one-way trip on the road to pay for Phase 2.
Currently, the state is proposing a $150 million contribution toward the project.
Howard also ties a social aspect into the argument for Rail to Dulles and Loudoun, saying young professionals would be more attracted to Loudoun with a metro nearby.
“All the plans, especially in eastern Loudoun – and I argue in western Loudoun, as well – have been built around the notion that rail is coming,” Howard said.
The chamber CEO dismisses the prospect of there not being enough metro riders in Dulles and Loudoun.
“The biggest issue the metro has had has to do with the fact that there’s so much demand,” Howard said. “Metro’s not under-utilized.”