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County officials continue Metrorail financing debate

Loudoun County supervisors want to know the consequences should they decide to pull funding from the Dulles Rail project that is set to bring Metrorail to the area.

The decision to investigate the option – one several government leaders will make in the coming months about the project – came Wednesday during a county Government Services and Finance Committee meeting on the heels of an already tense situation.

In the last month, federal, state and local officials have come out against the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority, the board that governs the Dulles Rail project, after it decided to go with a pricer underground Metro station option for Dulles Airport.

An underground option would cost $300 million more to build than an above-ground station, which was endorsed by Loudoun and Fairfax County supervisors.

Under a financing agreement for the project, Fairfax County will pay 16.1 percent, Loudoun will pay 4.8 percent and the airports authority will pay 4.1 percent. The other 75 percent is to come from federal and state funding, as well as Dulles Toll Road revenues.

However, the project’s cost has swelled $1 billion past the original $2.5 billion estimate, leaving funding partners to wonder whether they should continue a commitment.

To finance the project, and keep rates on the Dulles Toll Road from rising, MWAA is pursuing federal loans. If MWAA gets federal financing, toll rates still will rise to $6.75 for a one-way trip, county officials say. Without federal help, the tolls would increase to $10.75.

Supervisors have 90 days to decide whether to opt out of financing upon completion of the Metrorail project’s preliminary engineering design, which MWAA has said could be available as early as July.

Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling), who voted last year to deny funding for the project, said he feared that MWAA would continue to increase the cost of the project, in turn driving up local taxes and user fees on the Dulles Toll Road.

“What I’m suggesting is today we vote to opt out and begin the process of saving hundreds of millions of dollars with a range of saving $30 to $40 million dollars today,” said Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling).

However, Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge), chairman of the Government Services and Finance Committee, said it was too soon to make a final decision on whether to pull funding from the project.
MWAA officials, Burton said, are weighing their options on the project and a change in position could come soon.

“I think it would be a mistake to take that vote to opt out at this point in time. There are negotiations going on,” Burton said. “No one knows right now, but it appears there is pressure on that board to make that decision … I would expect to see some changes before it’s all over.”

Some supervisors, including Delgaudio, said they believe MWAA would simply end construction of the Metrorail branch at Dulles Airport should Loudoun pull financing from the project. Plans for the project currently are to build past the airport with stations at Route 606 and Route 772.

Chairman Scott York (I-At Large) said Wednesday county officials already are working to gather information on how an absence of Loudoun funding would impact the project.

York requested a meeting with the MWAA advisory committee weeks ago to discuss the project’s overall cost, but a firm date has not been set.

York said County Administrator Tim Hemstreet already has sent a letter to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and is working on a letter to MWAA, seeking clarity on how an opt-out of financing would impact the Metrorail project.

The transit authority, Hemstreet said, relaxed requirements for the airport Metrorail stations at the beginning of Phase 2 negotiations, such as bus bays, a Kiss and Ride lot and a lower cost of parking. If Loudoun opts out of financing, those waivers may disappear, he said, leaving the county to still pay for operation and maintenance of the airport station.

“There is a possibility that even if we opt out, because there is a station in Loudoun County, we may still be responsible for paying for the operations of that station,” Hemstreet said.

York said MWAA is facing several problems if Loudoun pulls financing, including an absence of commuter parking garages. The proposed Route 606 Metrorail station was to provide 6,000 parking spaces, he said.


So exactly how many people in Loudoun County will use a Metro stop at Dulles because of its “convenience”? Let’s see…

The majority of the county lives west of this stop. The vast majority of the county will still have to drive to the stop to use it. That means the vast majority of Loudoun County residents WON’T use the stop to go to the airport.

Putting in Metro to the airport won’t increase tourism. Whomever supports that idea is just plain crazy. When was the last time you’ve EVER heard of someone saying “I’d like to travel to DC, but just won’t use that darn Dulles airport because it’s not connected to that pathetic Metro system”? I’d go out on a limb here and say… NEVER.

The simple fact is that whether or not we have Metro to Dulles doesn’t significantly impact the airport’s usage. And people can presently use mass transit to get to the airport just fine… Loudoun has buses that bring people there. Fairfax does too. Metro does as well - the 5A from Rosslyn is one example. And then there’s the private transit buses that run from West Falls Church. People already have PLENTY of options.

The fact that this project will cost us more money in present-day value than we’re expected to reap from it in future value should tell taxpayers something - that it’s a boondoggle. The fact that tolls on the DTR will rival fees for the Greenway should tell taxpayers something. The fact that it’s being run by some of the worst management in the region - MWAA - should tell people something.

Ring, ring people… pick up the clue phone… It’s time for our Board of Supervisors to pull funding for this enormous waste and recommend that Fairfax County do the same to save its taxpayers from this boondoggle as well.

MWAA actually stands for “More Waste And Arrogance” - which is exactly what we get from them on a daily basis.

DTR User, your claims are more short-sighted than Mr. McGoo. Folks like you live in the past, and can’t think or plan for a future who’s variables are constantly changing.

Here’s a variable all your points aren’t based on: cost of gas. It’s a direct corelation between higher gas prices and less driving (which results in higher usage of public transit). As gas continues to creep higher, all walks of life are going to look for cheaper ways to get to work, etc. W/o transit options, the economy will stall or reverse, for a variety of reasons…how’s that for money well spent. Again, so short-sighted, where 1 only equals 1.

Dullles Toll Road Loser.  This is more of the same.  Your facts are sketchy at best.  It ignores the fact that Dulles Airport is projected to double in size over the next twenty years.  Lost tourism dollars alone will be substantial.  It also ignores the possibility of higher density development around a new future Dulles 28 corridor.  The 7% figure is rediculous and might result with a stop on the other side of the garage, but with a below ground convenient stop close to the terminal makes the airport itself transit oriented development.  The rail opens up tremendous opportunities for the entire state that we don’t have now.  Connecting Loudoun to those opportunities is crucial.  Delgaudio does nobody any favors.  Just hate mongers against hispanics and homosexuals.

Too many in the public and most politicians remain ignorant of the facts. Dulles Rail Phase 2 has never been even remotely economically or financially feasible. That’s why the Federal Transit Administration denied funding for Phase 2 in 2002 when the capital costs were projected at one half the costs projected today.

In eastern Loudoun County, population density averages under 2,500 per square mile, far below the 6,666 or more per square mile density shown in the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit Design Guidelines to support heavy rail.

The hard facts about the lack of viability of heavy rail in Loudoun County have been known for years but ignored by most. Eugene Delgaudio is protecting Loudoun County taxpayers from huge cost burdens that joining WMATA would entail.

The recent fiscal impact study prepared for the County shows that only $234 million in net economic benefits can be expected by 2040 - less than the upfront $300 million that the County will be required to contribute to Dulles Rail as its 4.8% capital cost share or the expected $30 million or more annual operating and maintenance cost subsidy to WMATA needed for operating the rail project.

Finally, and not least, don’t forget the potential $5 billion or more in tolls on the Dulles Toll Road that Loudoun County residents and businesses wiil pay in AFTER TAX MONEY to MWAA for financing Dulles Rail project over the next 50+ years.

MWAA admits that only 7% of Dulles Airport passengers will use Dulles Rail and it is likely that an even lower proportion of Loudoun residents and businesses would ride the rail regularly. WMATA should make public a transit ridership study. revenue and cost projections with all supporting assumptions made to justify the huge expense that Dulles Rail entails.

Loudoun’s best kept secret coming soon.  I can’t wait!

Its really great message.

Supervisors get in the way of this project at their own peril.  This is something that the public wants and needs.  Bickering over cost for something that will benefit citizens for decades to come is rather petty and short-sighted.

Agree…isn’t it time for Loudoun to no longer be run by part time politicians?

That’s a great message to send to the development community, Eugene. For decades, literally, the County has been espousing and approving mega developments based on proximity and access to the future Silver Line, and now, at about the 22nd hour, you think it’s a good idea to pull the plug and turn your back on Metro, kiss it goodbye? How do you think Comstock and the Claude Moore Foundation are going to feel, after investing tens of millions in their Rt. 772 developments, only to have you flap your gums about pullign out the County share of bringing it here?

The short-sightedness never ends in this County by the politicians. IF only things could be run by neutral, rational people.

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