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Board Ponders Loudoun's 'Biggest Decision'

Supervisors received an update about the potential revenue generated by participating in Metro's Silver Line project.

A presentation about the potential fiscal impacts of Metro on Loudoun -  if the Board of Supervisors agrees to participate in Phase 2 of the Silver Line project - clarified some questions, but also appeared to fuel arguments for those for and against participating.

The presentation by Len Bogorad, the managing director of Charles Robert Lesser & Co., the company that conducted the fiscal impact study, showed that commercial developers would be drawn to the county with or without rail. However, he also said there would be lost opportunities without Metro because businesses would be drawn to rail stations to the east.

Supervisor Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) said the decision the board must make is huge. In an earlier meeting, someone called it the biggest decision since Dulles Airport, but Volpe pointed out that the federal government made the that decision.

“So, in reality, this is probably the biggest decision the county have ever faced, so let’s not take it lightly,” she said.

Supervisor Ken Reid (R-Leesburg) focused on the Lesser report finding that the county would grow regardless of Metro.

“You can have the growth with Metro or without,” he said, repeating Bogarad’s assertion.

However, Bogorad’s offered caveats.

“There’s no question in our mind that is does affect development locations. Stations are attractive sites for development,” he said. “There will be development that would not have occurred in Loudoun that will be in Loudoun County if rail happens. Loudoun will be quite competitive if there is rail there and will not be competitive without it.”

The Lesser report estimates a 7 percent increase in non-residential development in Loudoun with rail, and that the development would be concentrated more closely around the rail stations because businesses prefer multimodal transportation.

Reid pointed to the development that occurred along the Dulles Toll Road prior to the approval of the Silver Line project. While Tysons Corner may not be the best comparison because of its proximity to the Capital Beltway, Reid and others who oppose Loudoun’s participation next point to Reston as an example of growth without rail. Both are places now slated for Silver Line stations.

“Combining rail with a good highway is going to attract even more development,” Lesser said.

A major concern of some following the debate is whether the project will result in significant debt for the county. While the Lesser report shows positive revenue generation, it does not include the costs of rail. Loudoun has appropriated money for construction of the project in its capital improvement program, but there’s no actual money in hand, which is why supervisors are considering additional sources of revenue such as a tax district.

“We haven’t … discussed on this board or the previous boards, how we would pay for it,” said County Chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large). “If we institute a special tax district and a couple of other things, then you’re generating another source of revenue above this.”

York has also argued that there are few alternatives to rail to move people east and west because of Dulles International Airport and the lack of expansion space along existing roads, but Reid said he doesn’t believe that.

“The idea that we can’t build capacity anywhere on Route 7 or anywhere else is a myth,” Reid said. However, he offered no specific proposals during the meeting.

Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) said he’s been getting lots of questions from people in his district who are “surprised and dismayed” that the project is in question.

“All of them thought is was a done deal,” he said.

There has been a difficulty in estimating benefit for several reasons. For example, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments growth estimates for Loudoun show half the residents, but more jobs than estimates by Moody’s Ratings.

The Lesser report is based on existing planning and zoning in the county and did not contemplate changes to either. Rail would result in about 4,800 new homes in the county (primarily from increases at existing sites triggered by rail), about 1.4 million square feet of additional office space, 670,000 square feet of retail and nearly 300 additional hotel rooms, according to the Lesser report.

At least two supervisors wondered by Lesser did not study a scenario where rail ended at Dulles. Bogorad and Ben Mays, Loudoun’s deputy chief financial officer, said at the time the study was conducted there was no discussion about ending the line at Metro.

The debate seems to grow more complex with each meeting, making it difficult to address every variable.

The board will continue its discussion on the fiscal impacts during a May 16 work session that also includes a parking study conducted by the county.

Bob Bruhns May 24, 2012 at 11:06 AM
The mistake that the toll road people are making, is that their argument will simply be twisted into a justification for more borrowing and more taxes, for a rail line that is ridiculously premature. Use your heads, people. Yes the tolls will go up, because Phase I was foisted on Fairfax County. You don't think that Phase II will make things worse? Didn't you learn arithmetic in school? Use your heads and look at the prices. $26,394 per space for parking garages, when they should cost $15,000 per space! $83 million per rail station, when they should cost $40 million! About $270 million per mile, when this line should cost MAYBE $150 million per mile! And no rail tax district around the rail station areas! Oh wait - THE BOS JUST THOUGHT ABOUT THAT TWO MONTHS BEFORE THE DECISION? Except THEY WERE DISCUSSING IT TWO YEARS AGO! WHO'S KIDDING WHO? Think about it - don't you think that people who will be pocketing incredible windfall profits would be urging you to approve this plan? JUST SAY NO! This Phase II farce will bring you a couple of stations on the east end of your county that will only make things worse for you. Snap out of it and say NO!
CC Mojo May 24, 2012 at 01:09 PM
Bob, do you even live in Loudoun? Just curious, since you seem to be running around, waving a banner about how horrible Phase II is, but saying "the east end of your county that will only make things worse for you." Also, a head of cauliflower should only cost $1.50, but here, it's $4.00. I'd expect no less from a parking space, a ticket to the Spy Museum or a bottle of wine.
Bob Bruhns May 24, 2012 at 03:13 PM
No CC, I live in Herndon, just over the eastern border from Loudoun County. Well if you like expensive things, you'll love Dulles Rail. I guess if you like expensive produce, why not have expensive transit as well? Despite several Metro lines on Fairfax County's east side, (3 lines, if you count the Orange line to Vienna, the Blue line to Springfield, and the Yellow line to Huntington), Loudoun County is still richer than Fairfax County. I guess you'll fix that with these rail stations?
Michael May 24, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Bob asks, "what if your job is in Centreville?" So, Bob, is your standard that a project is only worthwhile if it reaches every job in every locality? The people whose jobs are in Centreville will benefit, because as others take Metro, space will open up on the roads. That's how this works.
Michael May 24, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Bob, the truth is, when Metro came to Fairfax, Shady Grove, or Greenbelt, they didn't have the density to support it either. But it is smarter to build the infrastructure first, before the density comes. In any case, a terminus station with park-and-ride facilities doesn't have to meet the same density test as a neighborhood station, because it can draw its riders from a much broader area.
Michael May 24, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Bob, you'll get further with your arguments if you stop insulting people. Just because some disagree with you doesn't mean they're not "actual adult human beings." We were not all made in your mold.
Michael May 24, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Bob, VA -MD-DC together can't pay for their roads either. That's not a function of wealth, nor is it a function of the cost of rail. Its a function of the lack of political will and conservatives keep insisting that nothing actually needs to be paid for.
Michael May 24, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Huntington is most definitely NOT on the 'east side' of Fairfax County. For that matter, neither is Springfield. Loudoun is richer for a variety of factors, mostly having to do with the relative age of the developments. It's oversimplistic to blame rail for that. You have to consider the (non-rail-accessible) areas around Bailey's Crossroads, Annandale, and the Mt. Vernon corridor, with their older development and smaller houses which attract a different income level.
CC Mojo May 24, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Bob, I love how you try to twist words. But, why do you care so much about Phase II if you're not going to be affected, at least according to whatever else you've been saying?
Bob Bruhns May 24, 2012 at 05:10 PM
CC, for the benefit of people who do not even live in northern Virginia, I live in Herndon. Herndon is actually one of the rail station locations on Dulles Rail Phase II, aka Rail to Loudoun, aka Rail to Dulles, aka The Silver Line (Phase II). How does it affect me? I live right here where traffic is about to take over my town's roads, because of drivers avoiding the ridiculous tolls that are coming to the Dulles Toll Road. Will those drivers be able to use the Silver Line? Probably not, coming from Maryland via Rt 15, and from Loudoun County, and probably headed to Vienna, Fox Mill, Fairfax, VA, etc. Maybe a few will park somewhere and take rail into Tysons Corner or DC. I pay Town of Herndon property tax. And my town has to deal with the coming rail station just outside of our southern border. I'm sure it will all benefit the landowners down by the station, but I doubt that it will benefit me at all. I also pay Fairfax County property tax. And when Fairfax County floats a Billion dollar bond to pay down the tolls, I get to help pay down the bond. Whoopee!!! No doubt this is the plan in Loudun County as well.
Bob Bruhns May 24, 2012 at 05:36 PM
By the way - FTA claimed, and MWAA did not protest, that parking garages cost $26,394 per space. But in very nearby downtown Herndon, VA, they cost $15,000 per space. Isn't this false inflation in Dulles Rail Phase II? Why are parking garages so much more expensive when MWAA and FTA cost them? I think we need to take the keys away from that bunch, and get Phase II costs under control.
CC Mojo May 24, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Bob, correct me if I'm wrong (and I have no doubt that you will) but you are okay with the Rail to Dulles part of the project, correct? Yet, that still affects your traffic. And, again, why do you care what happens in Loudoun?
RKO May 24, 2012 at 06:46 PM
As a note for any readers, special interests have long had a history of getting on local web sites and mailing lists and having their marketing people saturate them with what amounts to propaganda. Whereas most people have to go to work, this **is** their work. i.e. if they're working for a developer and the developer has a lot to gain monetarily, their assignment might (literally) be to get on sites like this and saturate it with every possible angle supporting their claims. No one with an ounce of sense thinks metro is going to be the "miracle baby" that will magically transform various areas into "boom" areas, so when you read posts on sites like this claiming this will undoubtedly happen and this is a fact, it's likely a developers marketing agent getting on here and pretending to be a concerned citizen. Usually a concerned citizen that just happens to love development. 10 years ago one of the "selling" points of rail was that if the developers put it in and then turned Reston into an ultra high density area with 2X to 3X the population, the income of the area would **sky rocket** and their would be less traffic on the road because of rail. Some county supervisors actually believed this (or perhaps, were paid to believe). As another poster on here frequently points out, Reston has lots of unused space, traffic is worse, and it will get worse with rail. Read many of the pro-rail posts with a very, very, suspicious eye.
Bob Bruhns May 24, 2012 at 07:01 PM
CC, I am against this Phase II project whether it goes to Ashburn or only to Dulles Airport. I've seen enough and read enough to know that it is no good. The Phase II ripoff was originally sold to Fairfax County residents as 'Rail to Dulles', because "OH! Well, air travelers needed to get from DC to the International Airport!" Except later, when the insane MWAA below ground plan was going to cost so much money that even our so-called 'leaders' balked, we were told "OH, well actually, it's mostly for the Dulles Airport Employees - so, it's OK if it's a quarter mile from the air terminal." Hmmm. About then, I happened to notice that the FTA was on drugs or something, and they had bungled the price estimate for the Rt 28 rail station. And although I brought this to the attention of quite a few people, it was NEVER reported in the news. This was a $53 million error! So I began to question the figures. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that the Dulles Airport rail plan is horrible, and that Dulles Rail Phase II costs almost two times what it should.
Bob Bruhns May 24, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Everything in Dulles Rail Phase II costs about 1.7 to 2 times what it should, and there is a near civil war raging about who is going to PAY these costs, yet NOBODY is interested in the FACT that the costs are high by 70% to 100%. In addition, rail in this low-population-density area is premature, so it will be a burden even if the price is brought down to earth. This will affect me, because I will be paying road tolls and taxes, and I will be paying higher prices because everyone else will be adversely affected by these overcosts as well, and the cars escaping the toll road will flood my town. Ultimately I am convinced that Fairfax and Loudoun Counties will float billion dollar bonds to pay for it, and I will of course be left paying that off. No, thanks! I see the need for BUS - to reserve and establish the transit rights of way, and to provide interim transit for the next 30 years, until rail becomes a sensible option. Rail just isn't a sensible option now. I believe that the billion dollars plus of excess charge is padding some important pockets around here, so we are having this overpriced ripoff of a rail line forced upon us thanks to our so-called 'leaders', who have not even thought about how to PAY for this mess! Most people can't study and fight like I study and fight, and the media feeds them disinformation, and hides inconvenient things like the $53 million FTA blunder and the 70% to 100% project overcost. And so, people are confused and deceived.
Bob Bruhns May 24, 2012 at 07:16 PM
I am opposed to the rail even just to the airport because our 'leaders' already admitted that it is not even for air travelers! I prefer BUS. I also want a total redesign of the Dulles Airport rail station and track as a mostly on-ground 'dead-end spur', rather than a big expensive 3-mile elevated track loop, with an expensive elevated station 1/4 mile from the air terminal. (Ridiculous!) Maybe if Loudoun County gets smart and says NO, the job will go back to the drawing board, and MWAA will be pushed out of the process, so it MIGHT get done right!
Bob Bruhns May 24, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Michael, do you even live in Northern Virginia? Take a look. http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huntington,_Virginia "Huntington is a census-designated place (CDP) in Fairfax County, Virginia, United States." http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Springfield,_VA "Springfield is a census-designated place in Fairfax County, Virginia, United States" And I guess I'd better include Vienna, since it seems some people don't even live anywhere near Northern Virginia. http://www.homesviennavirginia.com/town-of-vienna-va-in-fairfax-county-va/ "About Vienna VA. Vienna VA is located in Fairfax County VA just 16 miles from Washington DC." Oh, and here is the WMATA Metro map. Funny, those stations look to be on the east side of Fairfax County to me. Well, Springfield and Huntington are a bit to the southeast. Close enough! http://www.wmata.com/rail/maps/map.cfm
Bob Bruhns May 24, 2012 at 07:27 PM
You know, Fairfax County had all that rail and all that proximity to the juicy, high paying jobs in DC, but yet Loudoun County is richer. Why don't you want to keep things that way? But no, you are falling for overpriced rail, when what you need is BUS - until rail becomes practical. You need to snap out of it, and start using your HEADS!
Michael May 24, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Bob, can you even read? Yes, I do live in northern VA - in Herndon, in fact. I never said those places aren't in Fairfax - I said they're not in the "east side" of the county. The "east side" of the county is Annandale/Falls Church/etc. Huntington is south, and Fairfax is West. I know my local geography well enough to know what I'm talking about. Nobody in those areas would consider themselves in the "eastern" part of the county - I work with many of them, and I could perhaps take a poll if you don't believe me. In any case, whether bus is a good idea or not depends on what you want out of it. You could at least set an example of mature adulthood yourself by adopting a different tone and taking the name-calling out of this. One can only assume that you personally have something at stake here, from the vitriolic nature of most of your comments. You don't even live in Loudoun but presume to tell their board what to do. And you claim here, as you have in other discussions, that everyone who disagrees with you is puerile, immature, idiotic, or in some other way beneath your station. You rail opponents spend too much time shouting. My mother always taught me that when people shout, they're trying to cover up the fact that they have nothing meaningful to say. If your arguments are that strong, try presenting them logically and leave the hate out of it.
Bob Bruhns May 24, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Michael, here in Northern Virginia, we need the political will to do what will actually WORK - put BUS lanes into the future rail right of way to reserve them for the future, and to use them today and for the next 20 to 30 years, until rail might become realistic in western Fairfax and eastern Loudoun Counties. Jumping to rail out here now, is such a bad idea that the federal government won't fund it, or even underwrite a loan for it. We should take the hint, and do things right, instead of caving to pressure from construction interests and rail area landowners. Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the US Federal Government are not, and should not be, their finance agents.
Michael May 24, 2012 at 10:29 PM
BTW I don't work for a developer, don't have any connection to developers, don't get any of their money, and wouldn't need metro to get to work (I have a 2 mile drive as it is). But I still think it's a good idea. I used my own brain and my own research to arrive at this conclusion.
Michael May 24, 2012 at 10:43 PM
One piece of evidence I used is actually population density. WMATA is recognized as a hybrid rail/subway system, so you can't just use straight subway densities in justifying locations, you need to blend them with commuter rail standards in the outlying areas. Ashburn as a whole already has enough density to support basic commuter rail by standard US definitions: the 20147 zip code has a density over 3300/sq mi. Given the empty space in this zip code, this means the neighborhoods near the stations are already considerably higher than that. When you say there isn't sufficient density, its probably because you're not looking at the map with a high enough resolution, so to speak. If you focus on too broad an area that will tend to happen. Look at the data by census block or census tract, rather than the entire CDP, and you'll get a more accurate idea. The density of some neighborhoods in Ashburn is already close enough to the level needed.
Bob Bruhns May 24, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Actually, Michael, Fairfax is more central. Centreville is west. I have to look at a map to see what is the furthest west. The point of the Metro stations being on the east side of Fairfax County (which is not surprising, because they come from DC), whether they might be on the northeast or the southeast, is that the situation for Fairfax County now, is similar to the future situation for Loudoun County - if you want to get from, say, Herndon, to a Metro station, you have to drive, take a bus, or ride a bicycle, or something, to get to and from there - much like the situation will be in Loudoun County, with Metro extending only as far as Ashburn. Now, some economist is saying that a few Metro stations on the east side of Loudoun County will cause money to gush out of office buildings and paychecks all over Loudoun County, but why didn't that happen in Fairfax County? Why was Loudoun County, with NO Metro at all, richer than Fairfax County, after Fairfax County - for YEARS - has had so much more Metro than Loudoun County will have? Why was there little business development, for example, at the Vienna station? Has anybody asked the economist why he wasn't pushing for a high-density business center at the Vienna station? The experience of Fairfax County says that a couple of Metro stations on the east side of Loudoun County aren't going to make Loudoun County rich - actually, it seems to me that the evidence actually suggests that it will make Loudoun County poorer.
Bob Bruhns May 24, 2012 at 10:56 PM
http://www.fairfaxcountyeda.org/sites/default/files/pdf/fairfax_county_map.pdf
Bob Bruhns May 24, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Are you really going to go looking for concentrated neighborhoods and run a rail line to them, Michael? Why not start with a dedicated BUS line? When you get to the point where the transit route is established, then go to rail. If Dulles Rail is going to ratchet its cost up to the neighborhood of $260 million per mile, until it has to shed its components and dump them onto the counties to hide its real cost (such as was done with the Rt 28 rail station and the Phase II parking garages), then I think the more stringent rules should be applied for population density. Maybe you should push to get its cost down to earth? Rail to Loudoun is a solution in search of its proper application - which eastern Loudoun County is not. But you make a good point for a rail tax district around the stations - which was conveniently forgotten, wasn't it.
Victoria Glenn May 24, 2012 at 11:36 PM
Wait..so you don't even live in Loudoun, and yet are so very very vocal about what happens here. You don't live here yet seem to have all the answers as to what needs to be done here. Interesting. Many of us who DO live here want the RAIL, we need the RAIL. The area is growing and the RAIL will bring needed transportation now, not as an afterthought. It will attract the best businesses and thus provide much needed jobs as well as a way to get to them.
CC Mojo May 25, 2012 at 02:25 AM
I don't know, Bob, but it seems between your location and loud, insulting voice, you're losing any sort of credibility around here. Will you be speaking at the meeting on June 4th? I'd love to see you in action ;)
Bob Bruhns May 25, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Victoria, how do I know that YOU live in Loudoun County? Some people who claim to live here have a strangely distorted idea of the actual geography of Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, and obviously are not from here. Who told you that rail was the solution to everything? It hasn't solved much in Fairfax County - Loudoun County was richer than Fairfax County -without- rail! But don't worry, we're rich enough with rail, and you will be too. You'll just have to do without a few things, and you can ride a train! You can fume about your taxes as you ride to work. Try not to remember how you actually supported the double priced rail line, or how you didn't want to hear facts from that awful BOB from Herndon. Just pay the bills, and don't even THINK about that job in Fair Oaks. Enjoy!
Bob Bruhns May 25, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Well, I'm very good at dropping my notes when I stand at the podium, CC. I might bonk my head when I straighten up after picking them up, too. It's important credibility stuff. You'd be amused.
Victoria Glenn May 26, 2012 at 02:12 AM
oh bob I never said you were awful....annoying at times, but not awful. You also know nothing about me about my life or my struggles to keep my family of 5 running. We may live in one of the richest counties in the US but not all of us have it easy and make ends meet with no issues and enjoy our commute to work in our BMW. Some of us have spouses who work ridiculous hours as it is, then add to that the hours spent commuting in gridlock, the stress that goes along with that and feeling like all you do is work and commute and not have time to spend with your kids or wife. Yes i have high hopes that being able to take the rail from a station closer to home will ease my husbands stress, shorten his commute, give us more time together as a family and have that time be more pleasant because of reduced stress. We could potentially get rid of one car, reducing our expenses some if i can drop him off and pick him up at the station, or he can carpool with a neighbor. once the kids are all at school, the rail will provide more job opportunities for me as I reenter the workforce. Do I know for a fact that this is how it will be..no. But I am very hopeful that the rail will indeed improve the quality of life for my family and I. I am certain also that I am not alone in this...most of my neighbors feel the same way. We need the rail for many reasons, these are just my personal ones.

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