Rail to Dulles was a focus at Tuesday's Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting, where Chairman Sharon Bulova called on the county’s federal representatives to pursue any and all avenues for providing federal funding for Phase 2 of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.
Bulova also signed a letter from the supervisors to Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton, objecting to the administration’s attempt to "circumvent the efficient transit funding system" Northern Virginia has used for decades, it reads.
Phase 1 of the Silver Line will run from Tysons Corner to Reston's Wiehle Avenue. It received $900 million in federal funding and is on track to open in December 2013.
Phase 2—slated to run from Wiehle to Dulles International and into Loudoun County—has received no federal funding. The Commonwealth of Virginia has pledged $150 million, which will likely be paid now that the project labor agreement has been dropped. However, some Metro board members have expressed skepticism that Virginia will come through with its fair share.
There has also been backlash from Dulles Toll Road users and critics, who are concerned that they will have to face sharp increases in tolls in order to help finance Phase 2.
In April, Fairfax County Supervisors reiterated their support for Phase 2.
Bulova pointed out on Tuesday the importance of the Silver Line to the region.
“[Rail to Dulles] will bring transit to our major international airport, provide connections to some of the county’s major business centers, and will serve as a gateway to Washington, DC, and the National Capital Region," she said in a statement.
"The Dulles Rail extension is not simply a Fairfax County project or even a regional project – it is a project of national significance. As U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood has stated, the Metro system is ‘America’s system,’ providing access for millions of riders to the nation’s capital,” said Bulova.
Bulova said possible sources for federal funding could include FY2013 appropriations, transportation reauthorization, transportation funding returned by the states and President Barack Obama’s FY2014 budget request.
“Given the national scope and importance of this project to the National Capital Region and to the federal workforce, the County should explore every opportunity for obtaining federal funding for this essential project,” she said.
The board matter was moved jointly with Supervisors Jeff McKay and Catherine Hudgins.
In the letter to Connaughton, Bulova—along with other regional leaders—pointed out how state methods have complicated the goals of funding transit.
“[The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission]’s current formula is the result of significant regional negotiations and collaboration to develop effective transit operations that does not stop at jurisdictional boundaries," the letter reads. "Unfortunately, this unexpected [Department of Rail and Public Transportation] action occurred without any consultation, which would have quickly identified some serious concerns."
At issue is a change in the way the Commonwealth directs distribution of its financial assistance for transit to Northern Virginia localities. Currently, the DRPT forwards that money to the NVTC, which allocates it based on the decades-old Subsidy Allocation Model (SAM).
The model is in state code, and failure to allocate state assistance to WMATA using it (as DRPT is attempting to do) would violate state law, the letter's authors say.
SAM has been used by NVTC since 1974, and no state representative has ever voted against it.
The letter’s authors say the SAM helps “cushion the impact” of unexpected changes in state transit aid, especially for smaller jurisdictions. The mayors and chairs also decry the short notice for this change.
“It is not reasonable to change NVTC’s successful and long-standing process with only ten days notice after FY2013 local budgets have been adopted and after NVTC had complete applications for the state aid [at issue],” they write. ““The new policy will create local winners and losers with no time to identify other workable solutions to achieve DRPT’s objectives. NVTC is not aware of any factor that necessitates a rush to action.”
Signers of the letter include Chairman Sharon Bulova, NVTC Chairman Jay Fisette, Arlington Board Chairman Mary Hynes, Falls Church Mayor Nader Baroukh, Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille and City of Fairfax Mayor Robert Lederer.