With just four days to go before a planned vote on whether Loudoun participates in the extension of Metro’s Silver Line, which would bring to station beyond Dulles International Airport to Ashburn, the Board of Supervisors has one more evening set aside to discussion options to pay for project.
By opting in, Loudoun would agree to pay 4.8 percent of the construction costs for both phases. Loudoun’s share of the $5.6 billion project—$2.9 for phase one and an estimated $2.7 for phase two—amounts to $270 million.
In addition, Loudoun would have to pay the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for the operation and maintenance of the two Ashburn stations as well as the airport station ($16.3 million annually starting in 2018, rising to $14.6 million by 2025)—Loudoun is on the hook for those costs at the airport station regardless ($11 million in 2018; $14.6 million by 2025).
To pay for those costs, supervisors are considering new taxes that would primarily put the costs onto businesses, with those closer to the rail stations likely paying the highest tax rates.
In a previous work session, the board decided to focus on a custom tax district (pictured with purple outline) that excludes existing residential units, but would include new units nears the station. In addition, the board continues to consider a commercial and industrial, C&I, tax that likely would be applied countywide. Another consideration is the creation of a tax district based on existing county service districts that would exclude western districts.
Previous straw votes eliminated from consideration the use of general fund dollars, which would impact real estate taxes countywide, and two tax districts that included all properties within one or two miles of the proposed stations. However, those non-binding straw votes do not prevent a supervisor from putting those concepts back on the table.
By establishing the districts before having to make all of its payments to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is constructing the project, supervisors hope to lower potential financing costs for the project. Current estimates put the debt service for the project in the range of $15 million to $18 million for Loudoun, with the potential to get costs even lower, depending on the financing mechanism used.
There are other potential project costs as well. While Loudoun hopes to persuade a developer to construct three planned parking decks, if the project proceeds to Ashburn, those costs could revert back to the project. Loudoun would then have to pay a 4.8 percent share for those decks, which are estimated to cost $40 million to $50 million each.
In addition, many Loudoun residents who drive along the Dulles Toll Road will have to pay higher tolls, because those fares have been targeted to help pay for the rail project. While MWAA estimates the tolls to go up to $6 or $7 potentially, some people say the tolls will go much higher. However, according to the planners, the tolls will go up by just about the same amount whether Loudoun participates in the project or not.
To learn more, visit the county's Silver Line page.
[Correction: The county's share for construction of the project was initially written incorrectly. The correct amount is $270 million.]