Loudoun Leaders Leaning "No" on Silver Line to Dulles Airport

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 10:05 AM

After four hours of debate Monday night,  the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors only inched closer to deciding how to fund its $270 million commitment to Phase 2 of the Silver Line rail project to Dulles Airport and west into the county, leaving some Metro-to-Loudoun supporters on the board visibly frustrated and raising the probability that a majority of supervisors will decide to opt out of the project when a final vote is held in two weeks.

“I’ve been saying all along it’s 50/50. I still think it’s 50/50,” said Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles), a Phase 2 supporter, after Monday night’s marathon work session.

If the county opts out of the $2.7 billion dollar project, construction of the rail link to connect Washington DC with the international airport would be delayed by at least 18 months.

The supervisors met to determine how the county would finance the project but only settled on submitting three options to the board staff for further consideration: creating 1) a county-wide commercial and industrial tax, 2) special tax districts around the two future Metro stops that
would levy taxes on commercial properties, 3) tax districts based on the borders of the county’s planning sub-areas.

“In my view we eliminated too many options from the table. The board took off the table any use of the general fund whatsoever, which I think is a mistake. We could fund the entire project our of general fund revenue with an impact of $98 a year for the average homeowner,” Letourneau said.

On the nine-member board four supervisors are considered “opt in” votes, but it’s not clear if they will be able to sway any of their colleagues to reach the five-vote majority necessary to support Metro rail-to-Loudoun. Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) made a show of voting against every financing option, declaring “Metro is evil.” When asked to clarify his remarks by a reporter Delgaudio declined to comment, saying he was “very busy.”

Of the four remaining supervisors leaning toward “opting out,” three signed and submitted just hours before the work session began a list of 21 demands they would like satisfied in order to support the project.

Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) initiated the “opt-in consideration” which included proposals outside the Loudoun board’s power. For instance, Higgins is asking the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to seat two additional Virginia board members. When asked how the proposal relates to Phase 2’s financing, Higgins responded, “The [MWAA] board doesn’t have the greatest reputation for openness and the way they have approached things. If it’s no big deal why have they refused to seat those people?”

The board’s three Phase 2 supporters who were present (Chairman Scott York was absent) touted the findings of a new survey conducted by the University of Virginia. Using a sample of 1,000 county residents in mostly suburban zip codes, the survey found that 77 percent want access to Metro rail. In rural areas support is 57 percent; in non-rural areas support rises to 81 percent. However, supervisors who are leaning toward opting out questioned the survey’s methodology, implying that the questions were designed to prompt favorable answers.

"There were no specifics with respect to [supporting rail]… if it means raising your taxes,” said Board Vice-Chair Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge). “That’s what this board is grappling with."

The supervisors plan to hold one final work session to determine if they can provide a financing framework before deciding the county’s ultimate participation in a public meeting scheduled July 3. Letourneau said opting out would hurt the county for decades, let alone delay construction by
at least 18 months.

“It is possible the project would get completed to Dulles Airport, but it will stop at Dulles Airport. There will be a rail line behind it which would make it impossible for it to ever be continued into Loudoun County. That’s the worse case scenario for us, where we are paying very high tolls, we are getting no economic benefit, our commuters have no access to the airport station, and they will have very limited access to the station’s in Fairfax County,” he said.


Comments [10]

Ann Siford

I don't want regret letting this one go ten years down the road. Bring us the Metro!

Jun. 26 2012 10:24 PM
Chris Lopresti

Loudoun does not need more time. They need better leadership! Vote yes to Metro!

Jun. 25 2012 11:29 PM
Chris L

The great majority of us realize Loudoun needs this. It will boost our economy and create jobs. The benefits of Metro vastly outweigh the cost. Vote yes to Metro!

Jun. 25 2012 11:20 PM
The Baconator

Even in the newest polls, 80 percent of us know we need the Metro to help us keep up with the growth in this area. I hope the politicians are listening to the people that put them in office. I think they will have a hard time keeping their jobs if they don't.

Jun. 25 2012 10:35 PM
J Williams

The BOS opts out and they will be kicking themselves down the road for not taking this opportunity while we have the chance. the majority of us feel the rail is important if not crucial to development in Loudoun, and this project needs to move forward!

Jun. 25 2012 12:55 PM

I hope that this article is just speculation. I hope that our politicians are not really going to let this opportunity slip through our fingers.

Jun. 25 2012 12:01 AM
Melvin Summers

Loudoun needs better leadership, there is no way that these guys should let this area suffer our traffic problems while sitting by and not trying to do something about it. Our population is exploding and this Metro, would help this problem for us and for generations to come.

Yes to Metro

Jun. 24 2012 06:17 PM
The Baconator

If the board is leaning toward not, they obviously are not listening to the overwhelming percentage of this counties citizens who want this project to move forward. We NEED METRO!!!!!

Jun. 23 2012 02:04 PM

Bringing the rail out to Dulles will not do the residents of Loudoun County much good. In order for Loudoun to grow more needs to be done. The Metro will create jobs and redirect traffic patterns. I believe the benefits outweigh the cost. I welcome the Metro!

Jun. 22 2012 11:30 PM
Julia Perez

As a resident of Loudoun County I am concerned about our employment opportunities. I am afraid of what would happen if I lost my job. I am also afraid for the next generation who will soon be seeking employment. The Metro would bring business into the county that would create better jobs and decrease the levels of unemployment. I support this project because I value our future.

Jun. 22 2012 11:20 PM

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