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Fairfax County 'In' For Dulles Metrorail Phase 2

The board voted unanimously to participate in the rail extension to Dulles Airport.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday morning to confirm the county’s participation in Phase II of the Dulles Metrorail Project.

Board members said though the funding scheme was not perfect, supporting the project was making an investment in the county’s economic future.

The county is responsible for anywhere from $433 to $498 million of the $2.7 billion extension past Wiehle Avenue in Reston to Dulles Airport.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said are “very legitimate.”

But “‘Participation,’ in this case, means three stations – Reston, Herndon, and Innovation,” Foust said. “Fundamentally, tolls will go up to bring rail to Dulles Airport. What we are deciding here today is whether we will have three economic engines along that rail line.”

John Cook, Braddock District supervisor, said the second phase was indeed a transportation project, but it was "the economic development that makes the project something that, I think, is good for Fairfax County,” he said.

Sully District Supervisor Michael Frey said he could "come up with far more reasons why we shouldn’t [participate].”

“I believe it was the Grateful Dead who said ‘What a long, strange trip it’s been,” he said.

Frey cited toll rates, the cost of the project and the uncertainty among the board for alternative funding sources as reasons for opposition.

But Frey ultimately supported the decision to buy in, saying: “It doesn’t make sense to build rail to Wiehle Avenue. … I will support reluctantly, but I will support.”

Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay supported the decision, but expressed concern about using too much of the county’s Commercial and Industrial Real Estate Tax Fund to finance it.

“It is a flexible source of transportation revenue when the state has abandoned us,” he said.

McKay also stressed the county must recruit the state to help with toll increases. It has committed to $150 million, but an additional $300 million Democrats were hoping for is no longer in the budget.

“I think it is the state’s obligation to support a project of this magnitude,” McKay said. “[To] support the biggest job creator in the Northern Virginia area right now.”

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, who has been vocally opposed to the county's participation in the past, was not present at Tuesday's vote because he was .

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has until early July to decide whether it will commit its share of approximately $260 million to the project. The board has requested additional time because many of its members were recently elected in November 2011. 

Catherine Hudgins, Hunter Mill District supervisor, said she wanted to convey to the Loudoun board the urgency of the matter and hoped they could come to a decision as soon as possible.

Phase I of the project, which ends at Wiehle Avenue, is expected to open in late 2013 or early 2014. The second phase could be completed in five years if delays to construction can be avoided.

“It is my hope that Phase II will move forward as planned, and we will all be able to take advantage of the enormous economic development opportunities the Silver Line extension will present," Board Chair Sharon Bulova said after the vote.

Fairfax County's Recommended Station Names

Before the vote on Fairfax County's participation, the board approved a list of names for Silver Line stations in the county. After receiving 16,000 responses to a survey regarding the names, county staff came up with a list that was deemed less confusing than previous recommendations. They can be found below.

  • McLean
  • Tysons Corner
  • Greensboro
  • Spring Hill
  • Wiehle-Reston East
  • Reston Town Center
  • Herndon
  • Innovation Center

"This is a much clearer set of names that will assist our riders for the long term," McKay said.

The names are simply the county's recommendations; the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) must approve them in order for the list to be adopted.

Rob Jones April 12, 2012 at 03:42 PM
"It is a flexible source of transportation revenue when the state has abandoned us" -- In other words, when we are cut off from the trough, and we have to look at the true cost of projects that don't make financial sense, suddenly it's time to throw tantrums until we get our way. For a project that has been in planning stages for decades, it seems that there are a lot of loose ends that suddenly need to be tied up. For all my research, I do not see either job potential for Loudoun or relief from congestion. What I see is a lot of development triggered in Ashburn, huge increases in tolls to travel by car or train (yes, what's the fare from Reston to Metro Center?), major congestion generated by drivers converging on park & ride lots all along the Silver Line, and a big gasp when developers and County leaders find that there is so much overbuilt inventory in regional office space and residential units that the lenders have to foreclose on numerous bankrupt landlords. There is a way to do it right, which is to run the rail through areas of well-established economic development, in a circuit that connects all-day destinations, not just commuting points. In Loudoun, the devlopers are assuming that they can build after the fact and the Metrorail project will guarantee their success. I call it gambling.
Rob Jones April 12, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Please do your homework. How will this be financed? It's not a question of rushing against inflation, its a question of analyzing the costs vs. benefits. The County has not employed delay tactics. The County has been carefully scrutinizing the deal and found that there is a lot lacking from MWAA's side in terms of supporting the terms of the deal will real numbers. Are we expecting Loudoun to blindly write Metrorail a blank check for ever? You are right about not putting it in when the airport was built, it would have made much more sense, as it does in other cities where effective mass transit serves the regional airport. As a nation we are going bankrupt, and as a region we are overbuilt and assuming that good times will return, and we can bet our pocketbooks now because we can pay for it out of future growth. The problem is, the suburban development patterns do not generate enough tax revenue per square mile to cover the costs of development, as they might in cities. But even in cities, why is Metrorail currently subsidized to the tune of 50%? Why can't the cost be completely covered by fares, or at least 75%? If you look at the neglect and mismanagement, and the fatal lack of maintenance (yes, people died riding Metro), you'll see that Metrorail has been avoiding paying for the full cost of operations for years. So, despite massive subsidies and gifts from the states and counties, it's a failing business and a bad investment.
Rob Jones April 12, 2012 at 04:18 PM
If the deal goes through, developers will build even more office space and the existing landlords will quietly go broke waiting for the Metrorail-induced tenants to show up. Everyone likes to predict the future as it suits them, but WBJ is obviously a pro-business rag and you could probably find equally compelling studies to show that the jobs will go elsewhere as the region is too expensive and congested to attract corporations and jobs. If the people of Ashburn can attract a business to employ them and support their upper-crust lifestyle, then we do not need Metrorail because they live within a 5-minute drive of their workplace. By golfcart. But to suggest that we as a region should subsidize their entitlement to a rail system that they themselves will not ride in enough number to make sense, and enable developers to build thousands of surplus square feet of home and office space, why should that come out of our pockets? Our tax money won't stay in the community to maintain our roads and services, it will go to DC where it will be used to pay for a failing rail system that's choking on its own ill wind. By the way, you will also pay for a new pipeline to suck water out of the Potomac to serve your wonderful new neighborhoods.
Nancy Weissman April 12, 2012 at 04:41 PM
This should become one of Patch's top stories (included in"Breaking News" items, for example), as it will create a major challenges and changes to Reston residents and other citizens for the many years to come. I think some investigative reporting would be certainly of interest now - and more so in the future, as the tolls rise.
Karen Goff April 12, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Thanks for the suggestion, Nancy. It is not really a breaking news item, so we can't promote it as such. Yes, the Metro is going to have a big impact in Reston. What kind of issues do you think we should investigate? Karen Goff Reston Patch editor

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