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LTE: Despite Obstacles, Metro a Must for Loudoun

A Southern Walk resident sees hurdles in Silver Line project to Ashburn, but calls on partners to overcome them.

I am not a politician, a lawyer or a pundit, I am a tax payer who calls it as I see it.

There are a few issues with various parties involved with bringing the Silver line to Loudoun County.

Firstly, we have the Washington Metro Airports Authority (WMAA), who have very little accountability but seem to be calling the shots. And if they don't get their way they will threaten to toll the heck out of commuters of the Toll Road or pull certain skilled workers from the project.

Secondly, the Metro Project itself. I'm not an accountant or a statistician. But I can't help and wonder why this project was not a firm fixed price model.  This would have kept cost in check and held all parties financially accountable. In 2008 WMAA & DTP (Dulles Transportation Project) signed an updated fixed project price of $1.6 Billon but limited the project to $2.6B. To me that is too much financial wiggle room and no one has explained the cause for the stark difference in numbers. We are not talking a couple of thousand, we are talking about Billions of dollars.

Thirdly, Special Interest Groups and the current hot button issue; union versus non-union. In general I don't think Unions are bad or cause harm. The purpose of most unions is to protect the worker and their rights. But we often forget that Virginia is a right-to-work state and this can limit the Union's power in the Commonwealth. 

However, the requirement of "Project Labor Agreements" (PLA) seems to be the most contentious and politically charged issue. PLAs have their benefits as do strong non-union project managers, but this is where playing politics can literally kill a project. As I understand it, PLAs typically bring in a higher skilled worker and this can often front load the labor cost. However projects with PLAs often keep cost down by delivering the project on time and have very few safety hazards. 

Fourth, and the most important element of the project is: the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and the Virginia General Assembly.

If our new Board of Supervisors wants to take Loudoun to the "Next Level" you would think it would be imperative that they support and adequately fund this project. However the only substantive contribution this Board has made to the Metro project was; requesting a 30-day extension to review the project. Time is valuable and within that 30-day extension the Virginia General Assembly has signaled they are pulling $300 Million from this project.  

In recent weeks the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors approved $583K for three—yes three—county sales positions. Without the benefit of mass transit, such as the Silver Line to entice large fortune 500 companies to move to Loudoun, our return on investment of these three sales position will be minimal at best. 

The bottom line is our County, General Assembly, WMAA & CTP  need to cooperatively work together and find a compromise to bring Metro to Loudoun.  This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, if Loudoun fails to approve a plan, Loudoun's economic development will continue to languish.  The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors needs to stop playing politics with the Metro project, they need to compromise and learn that "compromise" is not a dirty word.

Regards,

Erika M. Cotti
Broadlands Resident

Ann April 10, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Good points, Erika. Thank you. I can't help but also wonder: Metro in Loudoun will encourage higher density development and re-development near the Metro stations. The real estate industry who bought the November election might be rooting for sprawl throughout Western Loudoun. The Outer Beltway will make them the most money. Just sayin' -- follow the money. The Union objection is an excuse.
Eric April 10, 2012 at 11:28 PM
the real estate industry did not buy the election last November. Like almost everywhere else in the country people were/are fed up with out of control politicians who don't know how to be good stewards of the taxpayer's money. That is why 100% of the tax and spend Democrats on the Loudoun County Board of Commissioners was ousted. If the Republicans who inherited this mess continue along the same path they will be ousted too! It had little or nothing to do with the Metro project.
Rob Jones April 12, 2012 at 04:59 AM
So, how many Fortune 500 corporations have committed to coming to Loudoun if we opt in? In writing? I think that you are finding more problems than solutions if your goal is to bring Metrorail to Loudoun to support the capture of Fortune 500 corporations. Loudoun County is right now some of the hottest real estate in the capital region, and if Metrorail never comes to Loudoun there is as much development opportunity as ever. Metrorail might increase the confidence of some local developers and their lenders, but to say that any critical economic development depends solely on Metrorail's existence is selling Loudoun short. Developers know their job. That's why you live here. If you review the documents available on the Loudoun County website, you'll see a lot of outdated and missing information. MWAA is not exactly forthcoming in supplying Loudoun with accurate and timely information, such as ridership estimates, operational costs and capital requirements, upon which any decision could be made by a sane person. The BOS is doing their best to gather information, but come July 4 their decision is due. And the decision to opt in carries enormous consequences as it obligates Loudoun to provide a perpetual blank check to MWAA and then WMATA, extra-governmental agencies with no accountability to Loudoun taxpayers or even the Federal government. Compromise is one thing, but blindly signing the MWAA contract would be sheer recklessness.
Jonathan Erickson April 21, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Don't sign up for this mess!

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