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LTE: Ashburn Resident Pushes Against Rail

Reader calls for Loudoun to opt out of Metro project because of lack of information.

My husband, Bob, and I moved from Fairfax County (Vienna) to Ashburn two months ago. Since then, we have attended several meetings on this project. The Lesser organization presented their findings at one of the meetings we attended. Previous to my retirement, I was a former small business owner and also COO of a mid-sized corporation in the '70s and '80s. I was astounded to learn that several of the supervisors were leaning toward approval of this ridiculous project extension past Dulles and taking on the unfunded liabilities of long-established but not well managed rail lines (DC, MD) including NOT having a seat on MWAAs Board. But wait, that was not the worst of it.  No one even has a clue as to what it will cost OR how it will be funded.

Please tell the citizens of Loudoun if any of you would commit to purchase a house, a car, an appliance, a vacation in spite of the fact that you don't know what any of these items cost or how you will pay for it when the bill comes due. Explain your rationale to us. Are you relying on rose-painted pictures of 'GROWTH?’  Again, if you haven't noticed, Loudoun has grown without rail and without the burden of having to pay forward to promote the very same 'GROWTH.’

Yes, it is good practice to have hearings and perform due diligence. But how is it possible that this 'venture' could be seriously entertained by some of the supervisors on this board? This is how issues/projects/regulations/laws/bills are decided upon across the river by Congress, if you haven't noticed. And also, if some of you haven't noticed, this country is broke. Are you planning the same future for Loudoun? I am so surprised that the very people who were elected into office in November promising FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY would even consider getting on board this 'train.'

I urge the Supervisors who are leaning toward voting yes on this project to read the papers/listen to the news and look back at history. Roads that are built for future use or to promote growth go broke ... note your own Greenway! These projects do not fulfill their own promise. Do not be seduced by glowing pie-in-the-sky fantasies.

It has been noted that the citizens of Loudoun who prefer to drive might benefit from the rail extension to Dulles Airport (for travel to Tysons or DC) which LOUDOUN DOES NOT HAVE TO SUPPORT WITH HIGHER TAXES. Sadly, Fairfax does not have a fiscally responsible board.

I began this communication by stating that we have just moved to Loudoun to put the density and high taxes of Fairfax behind us. Should the Board accept this 'developer land deal' boondoggle and encumber Loudoun, we will shortly be moving out of Loudoun. PLEASE OPT OUT --- UNANIMOUSLY!

Linda Miller
Ashburn, VA

[Editor’s note: There are cost estimates as well as proposals to fund the construction, operation and maintenance of the project.]

joe brewer May 24, 2012 at 12:18 PM
Another great and on the mark letter! yahoooooo
Bobby Perry May 24, 2012 at 12:50 PM
I have to disagree. I'm in Ashburn and I very much value the rail coming to Ashburn. You mention the local newspapers. There was an article recently (I believe in the Times-Mirror) which explains the ROI being $4 of county product for every $1 invested. The long-term (5,10 and 15 year) projected gross county product with rail grows tremendously, while long-term projected gross county product without actually shrinks. 6 years ago I bought a house in Ashburn, and rail was definitely a factor. It would be a total disappointment if if we don't get rail. The traffic on the Green Way is terrible, and the traffic on the beltway even worse. Major business development is being planned for the areas adjacent to the stations. If we don't get rail, it won't be a sign of fiscal austerity, it'll be a deficiency in leadership and a lost opportunity.
wahoowa May 24, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Yawn... more NIMBYism. If you don't know what it will cost or how it's being paid for, then you haven't been paying attention. That's your own fault. You honestly believe this has just been developed for years with no idea how to fund it? More and more businesses and people are LEAVING Loudoun for Reston and Tysons because of the possibility that we're going to opt out of our only chance to be connected with the DC metro area economic machine. Whatever, let's be a bedroom community forever. Guess I'll pack up my things and move to Arlington if this is the route we're going; at least people aren't so scared of development there.
CC Mojo May 24, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Linda, the BOS in Loudoun was pro-rail, with one exception, when elected in 2011, Ashburn isn't farmland or SFHs on 10 acre lots, and as wahoowa said, the costs have been laid out. Loudoun is poised on the edge of something great, and all of this fear and condescension is ridiculous. We need the Metro. We want the Metro.
Bob Bruhns May 24, 2012 at 05:12 PM
As a matter of fact, the projected improvement in Gross County Product in that study, comparing 'with Metrorail' to 'without Metrorail', grows ridiculously (note the word 'ridiculously') - from 3.2 billion per year in 2020, and 11.3 Billion per year in 2030, to 25.6 billion per year in 2040 - in 2012 dollars! And supposedly, this improvement is all coming from a couple of rail stations on the east side of the county - from which people from other locations, coming in by rail, will have to access the rest of the county by bus, or (as I have pointed out) by unicycle, magic carpet, pogo stick, skateboard, or by Mary Poppins umbrella. County residents of course will have the above access options, as well as the option of driving to and parking at the stations (and paying some parking fee). If that financial projection seems realistic to you - then perhaps somebody can also sell you a certain bridge, of which you might have heard. But if it doesn't sound realistic to you, and perhaps you suspect... a 'catch' of some sort... then by all means, do some research before being rushed into signing any agreements. No?
Rob Jones May 24, 2012 at 05:14 PM
The Loudoun board of Supervisors had a meeting on May 22 of this year to begin the actual discussions of how to pay for it. It's not pretty. You can watch the meeting on the County website. Items being discussed are special tax districts of a one- or two-mile radius around the stations as well as a Commercial/Industrial property tax that would apply County-wide. There are some very nice graphs that show a fairly optimistic picture of how to achieve revenue neutrality and even cost recovery in the out years around 2030-2035. The problem is that the County has to come up with some $300 Billion to build it and many $Millions per year to run it, plus it's not clear as to how much the County has to pay for capital projects that are now somewhere in the vicinity of $6 Million. You're welcome to look up the numbers and see for yourself. It is not chump change. If you live near any of the stations or own a commercial/industrial property, the crosshairs are on you. If you are a toll road driver, you've already been hit. If you like taking the commuter bus, your fares will likely go up. It will come down to the BOS voting in their districts' best interest, of course. Be sure to e-mail your thoughts to bos@loudoun.gov and let them know how much extra you are willing to pay in taxes to bring Metrorail to Loudoun.
Rob Jones May 24, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Hi, Linda,welcome to Loudoun. I've lived in western Loudoun for close to 20 years. The proponents of rail to Loudoun really don't think in terms of cost or economic impact. They want the convenience and the relief from their horrible commute. What they will get for their money, should the Board not opt out, remains to be seen. What is clear, though, is that we are in the final stretch approaching the July 4th deadline for the Board's decision, and the amount of work that has to be done is truly mind-boggling. Even more mind boggling is the amount of development coming to the station area. We all brought our expectations with us when we moved here, but while some wanted the peace and fresh air away from the urban madness in Fairfax, some simply wanted to be first in line to bring Centreville to Loudoun. By the way, if you haven't visited the Purcellville farmer's market, it's well worth it, and enjoy the newly revitalized 21st street area.
pcd112 May 24, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Compare DC metro area transit to other major east coast metro areas, and you'll find that mass transit doesn't extend nearly as far from the city as it does in metro areas of similar populations. That creates more congestion on the roads, and restricts growth. No one is questioning the fact that studies must be done (and have been done) to understand the financial implications for the county and its taxpayers, but do not underestimate the potential (or loss thereof), of direct metro access to the region. Property values and local development have already accounted for the promise of the metro, so if the board fails to see the metro project through at this point, you can be sure to see an immediate decline in your property value.
Tom May 24, 2012 at 06:20 PM
The BOS should definitely support the Metro coming to Ashburn. As the author stated, Loudoun has grown rapidly without Metro, and that's sort of the point. Metro will support that growth with needed transportation options and also help facilitate a shift to smarter, denser growth with housing and employment centers in short distances to the Metro stations.
Mad Republican May 24, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Why did you buy a home here if you didn't want the Metro. It's been known for years that Metro is headed here. The opposition has only been raised since the new Republican board was elected. It definitely makes me question either your intellect or your motives in writing your letter. If you were incredibly out of touch with the area prior to purchasing your home, that's on you. You lived in Fairfax, it's not like you moved from California and knew nothing about the region.
Melvin Summers May 24, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Support the Metro to Loudoun. Get some cars off the road, clean our air up a little bit. Connect the second largest airport in the area to the people in DC. The list goes on and on for reasons we need Metro. I do enjoy though how the author of this article has just moved here 2 months ago and already knows exactly what the good citizens who have lived here and dealt with the traffic for over 20 years need. Two months, really? I also like how you also give away that you are retired, so I am sure noe of the traffic in the morning bothers you as you don't have to jump out there move kids back and forth to school get to work and back again every day in the third worst traffic in this entire country. I would ask that maybe you spend a couple years living here before you expect your voice to climb above all of us who have been here for years. Have some respect for your new neighbors and say yes to Metro. Yes to Metro
Libby May 25, 2012 at 05:28 AM
See ya! As someone who is a retiree and a non-commuter, you have lost your sense of the value of time. It took me an hour and 20 minutes to get to Reston this morning. Traffic is unbearable. There are a lot of young families in Ashburn - we value our time with our children - not spent sitting in traffic. We are willing to pay for that convenience. Besides, if you wanted to opt out of the high taxes of Fairfax, why on earth would you move to a county where the costs of schools from over-approval of development necessitates building 20 schools in 5 years? Talk about expensive! Growth is indeed costing us - and the only taxbase the county really has is us, the homeowners. Let's get some business to come to Loudoun with Metro and share this tax burden with us. If Loudoun is going to continue to grow (and it will as you pointed out), we must be ahead of the game and build rail to Ashburn - or we will become just like that nasty sprawl-and-crawl madness you left behind in Fairfax.
Leslie Ackerman May 25, 2012 at 11:22 AM
I cannot understand why this science-fiction project is even discussed when simpler, less expensive projects can be embarked upon to ease the time and aggravation spent in driving through the option-less roads of Loudoun County. How about a bridge over Route 7 and Belmont Ridge? Or finishing LC Parkway into 50? Or getting rid of stupid sections (e.g., Redskins Park) and fixing the road to avoid holes and bumps?! Meanwhile, expect the "marvellous" Virginia police to ticket you for showing desperation. Having lived in many other places, I don't see much difference with deveioping countries! We even have to face gravel! In fact, this is the worst I've experienced.
Rob Jones May 25, 2012 at 01:02 PM
@Leslie, the improvements to Belmont/Rt. 7 is already slated for construction, and the stretch in front of Redskin Park is waiting for a developer to start building which will trigger a proffer to finish the missing lanes. The gravel roads have their advantages -- many are maintained by the state, and they keep driver speeds down, and they have a special charm you probably wouldn't find so appealing, but please allow for other residents to enjoy the way some things are without calling us a developing country. I've spent some time in impoverished countries as well and you could do far worse than Loudoun. Footnote, the big deal in about 20 years will be how much the road maintenance will cost and how much it will eat the gains our golden rails have brought in. Don't underestimate the power of old asphalt to ruin your budget.
Rob Jones May 25, 2012 at 01:06 PM
I suggest that everyone attend the outreach sessions hosted by the County -- you can ask questions of County staff (end even the Supes themselves!) and they have marvelous maps and handouts. Whatever side of the isuue you're on, it's a great way to get a word in with the decision-makers. The next one is scheduled for Wednesday, May 30: 7 to 9:00 p.m., Freedom High School Cafeteria, 25450 Riding Center Drive South Riding -- more info at http://www.loudoun.gov/index.aspx?NID=2100
Linda Miller June 14, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Uh-huh! And Obama promised lower premiums for health insurance and "you can keep the insurance you have"!!!
Linda Miller June 14, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Yes. Good solution for those who love rail, runaway spending, taxes, trolleys and density.
Linda Miller June 14, 2012 at 05:03 PM
I would certainly check out who owns the property around the proposed stations in Loudoun before. Could it be certain developers, business owners and professionals???
Linda Miller June 14, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Sorry. No to Metro! I do not support higher taxes --- fix the roads and build the schools that are needed before entertaining a NICE TO HAVE BEFORE A REALLY NEED. Metro is not the answer. Make Loudoun business friendly and build a tax base by enticing big businesses that create jobs is the answer. Then you can comfortably drive to work with better roads or set up bus service to 'a commercial corridor' without having to pay for Washington DC's metro mismanagement and bad maintenance practices.
Linda Miller June 14, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Make Loudoun business friendly and they will come.
Linda Miller June 14, 2012 at 05:13 PM
It was a dog and pony show put on by supporters!

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