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Will Real Rail Stop in Loudoun?

Reston Chamber's "Virtual" Tour shows rail to Dulles, but the actual Silver Line is in danger of getting off track.

As Loudoun prepares for the first of a series of work sessions tonight to hash out whether to participate in Metro's Silver Line extension to Dulles and—if Loudoun does participate—beyond to Ashburn, business leaders in Reston received a "virtual tour" of the project's second phase. As planned the second phase would run from Wiehle Avenue, where phase one ends, to Route 772 in Ashburn.

Loudoun County Chairman Scott K. York (R) told the crowd at Tuesday's Virtual Rail-ty Tour that he has spent "the better part of 20 years" on bringing rail to Dulles.

But with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell wavering on the commonwealth's contribution and the York says "we are down to the final minutes."

The presented the Rail-ty event at the to gave chamber members and other business leaders a look at how Metro's Silver Line will impact Dulles Corridor development.

And while the hosts conducted a "virtual tour" of the Silver Line from Tysons to Loudoun County, there is real fear that costs may doom Phase 2, which will run from Reston's Wiehle Avenue into Loudoun.

Loudoun Supervisors have until to July to decide whether they are going to continue to support the project. The board is slated to contribute $260 million and has scheduled a work session for 7 p.m. tonight, April 17. Fairfax County Supervisors reiterated their support last week.

Unlike Phase 1, the $5.6-billion Phase 2 has no Federal money. Virginia has pledged $275 million. McDonnell (R) recently said Virginia would give another $150 million. He initially said he would offer another $300 million, but has wavered since realizing that other Virginia transportation projects may suffer.

"This is the great debate going on at the state level in the Commonwealth of Virginia," York said. "Quite frankly, I think the commonwealth should put $1 billion into this project."

Without additional money from Virginia, a large part of the cost may be borne by Dulles Toll Road users. 

Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said yesterday that public-private partnerships - like the one at Reston's Wiehle Station, where Comstock and the county are teaming up to build a 2,300-space parking garage - are the key to getting the rail project completed.

"Rail is an economic asset to the region, the commonwealth, the corridor and the county," she said. "I believe the vision and commitment is still there, even if it is a struggle."

Gerald Gordon, president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, says having rail service is essential to the growth and continued economic outlook of Western Fairfax County.

Tysons and Dulles/Reston/Herndon are in the top 20 in office space and ability to grow," he said. "Tech workers want to live where other young people live, but they want to work in Tysons and Reston. The ability to attract that work force is critical."

Gordon also says the fact Dulles International Airport and Washington, D.C., are not connected by rail service has been a challenge as Washington tries to compete as a "major league city."

"You need major league assets," he said. "You need to get rail to the airport and beyond."

 

[Dusty Smith contributed to this story.]

Rob Jones April 21, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Gordon: "the fact Dulles International Airport and Washington, D.C., are not connected by rail service has been a challenge as Washington tries to compete as a "major league city."" If this issue is framed as some kind of civic badge that gives Washington some kind of standing in the community of cities, then it is a monument that serves DC, and DC should pay for it, just as the federal gov't pays for the Space Shuttle. If it is framed as a vital connector to serve two destinations with public transportation, that is already accomplished much more affordably by the Washington Flyer system or it should be paid by MWAA and WMATA. If it is framed as a stimulus for local businesses and development, then it is an investment. The problem with the second and third cases is that the return on investment does not clearly reward the investors, as in the taxpayers, in a timely and predictable manner, although it does manage to re-distribute wealth from the regional governments into the pockets of certain corporate stakeholders. The problem with the first case is that it is a vanity project that would be a gift to certain politicians that have aligned themselves with the developers' interests while promising the public certain benefits. When the benefits do not materialize, who goes to jail?
Bob Bruhns April 23, 2012 at 11:56 AM
The demands of this project just keep ballooning. It reminds me of an auction. "Do I hear $150 million from Virginia? Do I hear $450 million from Virginia? Do I hear $1 Billion from Virginia?" You know, a similar auction in Hawaii, using pretty much this same game, resulted in the state having to borrow $1.9 Billion, for a rail project that was not supposed to require any borrowing at all. Do a web search on ' Honolulu rail project ' and you'll find it. We are headed down the same path. And as always, we see NO discussion of the evident two to one price bloat, and NO mention of the financial audit of Dulles Rail Phase II that has been going on for a MONTH now. (Do a web search on ' Audit Initiated of Phase 2 of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project ', it's on the DOT GOV website.) Where are the great 'leaders' we elected, who keep claiming that they are "looking for ways to lower the tolls?" Seems like they are all reading from the same script, doesn't it. Do you ever wonder why the USA is in so much debt, spending like mad, while somehow we only have less and less? Take a look, this is how it happens. We used to be outraged at planned cost overruns, $600 hammers, etc, but now we just stare like cows in a field, chewing cud. Don't we.

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