Tuesday, April 02, 2013
Meanwhile, legislators in Richmond -- and push for legislation making texting while driving a primary offense in Virginia.
"I think we're getting to the point where people are starting to understand and recognize that, but I'm not sure people are quite aware of how dangerous it is,” says Debbie Pickford, chair of the board of Drive Smart Virginia.
Just how dangerous? Texting while driving increases your risk of a crash by 23 times, according to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Eighty percent of all crashes and 65 percent of all near crashes involve driver inattention within three seconds before the accident. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who has been known to honk at drivers he sees talking on cell phones, has called distracted driving "an epidemic on America's roadways."
Despite these findings, Pickford says, it has been difficult convincing teenagers as well as adults to drop their gadgets and keep both eyes on the road. “The problem is getting worse,” she says. Her group is encouraging drivers to sign a pledge in which they publicly commit to eschewing cell phones while driving.
According to a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association, teen driver deaths went up in the first six months of 2012 compared to the same period the prior year, and Pickford says a big reason is driver distractions like smart phones.
“We’re a multitasking society. We’re a busy society,” Pickford says. “I think multitasking has become a way of life, so people are just trying to get things done when they are in their cars and there is a lot more you can do now on a smartphone.”
Distracted Driving Awareness Month was once just one week, and advocates plans to extend their activities well past April into the “dangerous months” for teenagers when proms and graduation parties increase the potential for risky road behaviors.
Ultimately, safety advocates would like society to view distracted driving the same way it now sees drunk driving, but Pickford concedes that will take many years.
“It took a while for society to get to the fact that drinking and driving is really very dangerous, so I think it will take a few years to build this campaign and make people aware,” she says. “It doesn’t happen over night and it’s why we have gone from a week to a month. We are hosting a distracted driving summit in September in Richmond.”
Advocates are also looking to Richmond lawmakers for help. This week state legislators are expected to approve legislation that would make texting while driving a primary offense.
“Right now a policeman can pull someone over if they see something else going on in the car. They cannot pull them over if they see you texting while driving,” Pickford says.
Drive Smart Virginia says youth education starts in the car with parents. Children as young as five begin to pick up their parents’ driving behaviors, so she is urging parents to set good examples and refrain from using hand-held cell phones at the wheel.
Monday, March 11, 2013
Lurking in the ground beneath our feet, waiting in their burrows for the first signs of spring are tens of millions of cicadas.
After 17 years, cicadas are expected to emerge and overwhelm a large swath of land from Virginia to Connecticut — climbing up trees, flying in swarms and blanketing grassy areas so they crunch underfoot.
Friday, February 22, 2013
Six roller coaster weeks after Governor Bob McDonnell proposed a major transportation funding overhaul, the Virginia House of Delegates has approved a compromise measure to raise $3.5 billion over five years for roads and rails.
The House voted 60 to 40 -- with 25 Democrats providing key "yes" votes -- to send the measure to the state Senate. House minority leader David Toscano said, "it's not perfect but better than not approving any new money for transportation."
"There are things that I don't like about this, but I am willing to support it because I do think that even though it doesn't solve every problem, it solves a lot of problems," he said.
The bill replaces the 17.5 cents-per-gallon gasoline tax you pay at the pump with a 3.5 percent wholesale tax on gasoline AND a 6 percent tax on diesel. The state sales tax would also increase to 5.3 percent, with that additional revenue earmarked for transportation.
Republican Delegate David Albo of Fairfax says Northern Virginia will eventually receive $350 million a year for its needs. "The three funding sources are a .7 cent sales tax, a .25 percent fee when you sell a home, so on a $500,000 that's $1250, and a three percent hotel [tax]."
The legislation also imposes a $100 registration fee on hybrid and electric vehicles. State Senate approval is needed to approve these proposals.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
(Washington, D.C. -- WAMU) For the first time Gov. McDonnell says he is willing to compromise on his plan to eliminate the state's gas tax, an idea Senate Democrats are unhappy with because it would shift transportation funding to general revenues.
"I think we can talk about that," says McDonnell. "I think this is the best solution to be able to eliminate it."
On Tuesday, the Virginia State Senate will take up Gov. Bob McDonnell's transportation funding plan that passed the House of Delegates last week. But what the governor still calls the "best solution" is still dead on arrival in the Senate.
"We will have to compromise. There's no way I'm voting for a total elimination of the gas tax. That's absolutely insane," says Democratic Sen. Chap Petersen, who represents parts of Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. He says Democrats are open to a mix of solutions for paying for transportation, but the gas tax will have to be part of it.
Petersen says his colleagues are now more open to working with the governor since an unrelated but controversial redistricting measure was dumped.
"It can't help but improve things around here," says Peterson. "I think when that redistricting bill happened, it cast a shadow over the session."
If the Senate passes the measure, it will have to be conferenced with the House bill. The legislative session ends in about three weeks.
Follow Martin Di Caro on Twitter @MartinDiCaro
Friday, December 21, 2012
This is the second of a two-part series on plans to expand Northern Virginia’s road network and freight capacity of Dulles International Airport. (Part 1)
To elected officials and Virginia transportation planners, Dulles International Airport is an untapped well of economic growth. However, maximizing its potential will necessitate major improvements of the surrounding road network. That includes completion of a “north-south” corridor which is now in the conceptual stages.
On Dec. 12 the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority unveiled its intentions to pursue development of airport properties, including 400 acres on Dulles’ western side and sixteen acres around the future Rt. 606 stop of the Silver Line. The goal is to enhance the airport's industrial capacity as a freight hub.
“We are the only airport on the east coast with that kind of land available to us for development purposes. Cargo is down at Dulles right now, but it is down because of the economic uncertainty in Europe,” said Loudoun County Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn). “The problem we have today is there is no easy access from the airport. The only access we have today is Rt. 28 and 28 is very limited.”
At their monthly board meeting, MWAA officials emphasized the importance of both expanding the Dulles Loop – Routes 606, 28, and 50 – and eventually connecting it to the north-south corridor. Studies to expand all three roadways are underway.
MWAA CEO Jack Potter indicated the agency would take a cautious approach to development.
“We do not want to make an investment either at Rt. 606 or in the western lands to put a lot of infrastructure in there. We are not going to build something and hope that somebody comes,” he said during a presentation to the MWAA board.
Elected officials in Loudoun County who support the “north-south corridor” concept see Dulles as a key to future economic growth and the roads it will require as relief for traffic-weary commuters.
"Anybody who lives in Loudoun County knows that more road capacity is necessary,” said Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles). “Keeping roads small doesn't prevent growth from happening.”
Environmental groups opposed to the construction of a multi-lane, divided highway west of Dulles Airport question whether the expansion of freight is the right goal.
“There are only so many pounds of freight that you can move on an airplane in an economical way. I think it is less than one-tenth of one percent of freight in Virginia comes by air. It is going to be an important economic activity but it is not the major way to move freight in the United States,” said Chris Miller, president of the Piedmont Environmental Council.
In his view, the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Northern Virginia master plan and MWAA’s development ideas amount to a move in the wrong direction, toward sprawl-inducing road expansions that could undermine the ongoing investment in the Silver Line rail project, scheduled for completion in 2018.
“I think the people who move west of Dulles Airport aren’t looking for another interstate highway with trucks on it to serve their neighborhood,” Miller said.
Miller uses the term “outer beltway” to describe the north-south corridor concept, a term that chafes supporters.
“If you want to unlock the potential of our economic engines – and Dulles is the biggest economic engine that we have in Northern Virginia – you’ve got to be able to tie it back to the other industries. If you look on the other side of the river, we have a large biotech industry in the I-270 corridor,” said Supervisor Buona.
“If you are able to create a [transportation] link between that industry and the IT and government contracting set, and that link connects to the airport, what you’ve done is create a corridor of commerce. You have not created an outer beltway,” he added.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
This is the first of a two-part series on plans to expand Northern Virginia’s road network and freight capacity of Dulles International Airport. (Part 2)
In a massive undertaking that would transform the face of Northern Virginia, state transportation planners are unveiling plans to create a “north-south corridor of statewide significance.” Some are calling it a potential beginning of an "outer Beltway," others say it's essential infrastructure for the region's economy. Critics call it a big waste of money, unnecessary and poorly planned.
The proposal would add a path between I-95 in Prince William County to Route 7 in Loudoun County, arcing west of Dulles International Airport and connecting to I-66, Rt. 50, and the Dulles Greenway.
Neither the exact route of a new highway, the cost, nor the number of lanes has been decided, but the agency’s objective is coming into focus: to dramatically expand Northern Virginia's road capacity to benefit commerce, namely the growth of Dulles Airport into the east coast's largest freight hub.
“I'm concerned that they are going to build a road at six lanes going 60 miles an hour much like the Beltway or Highway 28. They are going to need to do four lanes and they will have to slow it down,” said South Riding, Virginia resident Todd Sipe, who pointed out his home on a map of one of the proposed corridor routes at the first of two public open houses on Tuesday night. “I believe nothing is settled yet. They are collecting public comment now.”
Officials at the Virginia Department of Transportation greeted residents inside a high school cafeteria in Loudoun County filled with maps, charts, and bullet points about a regional master plan that is still in its conceptual stages.
“It seems to be more aimed at industry and transporting freight to Dulles Airport,” said Sterling resident Bill Roman. “In terms of our needs here in the county, people commute east-west mostly, not north-south. There are no north-south issues.”
“I think the state could spend its money in much more effective ways. The way this is shown right now, it ends on Rt. 7. That isn’t the place where you can end a road like this,” said Emily Southgate of Middleburg, referring to mounting pressure to extend a corridor north of Rt. 7 in the form of a new Potomac River crossing, an idea supported by Virginia state officials but not by their counterparts in Maryland.
One lawmaker who conceptually supports the creation of the corridor is convinced additional highway capacity would help commuters. Loudoun County Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) says concerns about a sprawl-inducing new highway could be addressed by limiting access, building fewer exits and entrances.
“When you talk about limiting access you have two main benefits,” he said. “It makes it easier to privatize the road to get it paid for, which is what I think VDOT is primarily interested in. The other benefit is that you can limit development in areas that are undeveloped."
In Letourneau’s view, new housing development is coming to Loudoun County, so the board of supervisors has to responsibly accommodate it.
VDOT officials say a limited-access highway that improves access to Dulles Airport and incorporates HOV lanes and bus lanes would serve the most people.
“We are going to work the best transportation system that we can and meet the needs of the public. There has to be political consensus to do that,” said Garrett Moore, VDOT’s Northern Virginia District Administrator. “We can limit access. One of the things we'd like to do is get predictable and fast transport, additional capacity and carpools to include express and bus rapid transit.”
Some environmental groups are adamantly opposed to building a north-south highway west of Dulles Airport, especially if it would absorb any property on the periphery of the Manassas battlefield.
“In the context of our limited resources in Virginia, this is one of the worst expenditures we could make,” said Chris Miller, president of the Piedmont Environmental Council. “The fact that it might be a public-private partnership doesn't change that analysis.”
Building through a public-private partnership would likely mean new tolls on the highway. To Miller, VDOT’s plans amount to an “outer beltway” that would lead to new development in 100,000 acres of farm land and rural subdivisions.
“There’s a big choice this region is going to make over the next ten years,” Miller added. “Are we going to take advantage of the investment in the Silver Line, or are we going to allow development to occur in this large 100,000 acre range from I-66 to Rt. 7 west of the airport. We don’t think it is inevitable. The McDonnell administration is encouraging sprawl by encouraging this highway.”
The second part of this series deals with Dulles as a freight hub.
Thursday, December 06, 2012
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell offered no specifics in his “comprehensive transportation funding and reform” plan to raise an additional $500 million per year to prevent the state from running out of money to build roads by 2017.
Speaking in Fairfax County at his annual transportation conference, Governor McDonnell called on lawmakers to stay in session next year until they find a solution to Virginia’s long-term funding woes, which are exacerbated by the transfer of money from the state’s construction fund to required highway maintenance projects.
“I don’t think we can wait any longer,” McDonnell said. “I don’t think I can continue to recruit businesses to Virginia and see the unemployment rate go down unless we are able to get a handle on and provide some long-term solutions this session to that problem.”
The Republican governor, who is one year from leaving office, did not specify what he will ask lawmakers for when they convene in Richmond in January.
“I’ll tell you when we’re ready… before the session,” the governor said in brief remarks to reporters following his speech. “These are plans that take a lot of work to put together.”
He refused to take a position on whether the state’s gas tax should be increased, although he indicated that doing so alone would not generate adequate revenue. The tax of seventeen-and-a-half cents per gallon, which currently accounts for about one-third of the state’s transportation funding, was last increased in 1986. It has lost 55% of its purchasing power when adjusted for inflation.
Improved automobile fuel efficiency and the rising costs of highway construction materials have reduced the gas tax’s buying power, McDonnell said.
“A key ingredient of asphalt has increased by approximately 350% over that same time,” he said.
Critics contend the McDonnell administration cannot be trusted to direct new revenues wisely. One of the most vocal critics points to a record of highway construction instead of transit projects as evidence, especially from the $4 billion dollar package approved for the administration by the legislature.
“He squandered most of that,” said Stewart Schwartz, the executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “It’s gone to rural highway projects that have very low traffic demand and are not high priorities given the traffic congestion within northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.”
Schwartz listed State Rt. 460 in southern Virginia, the Coalfields Expressway, bypasses in Charlottesville, and plans for an “outer beltway” in northern Virginia as examples of poor spending priorities by the administration, while transit projects like the Silver Line Metro rail and existing roads like I-66 need help.
“They are not targeting the areas of greatest need. You are not getting the best bang for your buck. You are spending a few billion dollars on the wrong things,” said Schwartz.
New revenues would likely be directed to construction projects under the state’s transportation trust fund, which currently loses hundreds of millions of dollars annually to required maintenance. The trust fund’s formula directs fifteen percent of its monies to transit projects. The remainder is for road building.
Governor McDonnell denied his administration is neglecting transit and other modes of transportation. “It’s going to be a multi-modal approach. Road, rail, and mass transit, all of those will be beneficiaries of a funding plan,” he said.
Monday, December 03, 2012
I’m going to tell you why you should care: Ken Cuccinelli is about as moderate as a punch in the face. If he wins, which is very possible, any talk of the Republican Party moving back to the center will go by the wayside.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
The agency managing the largest public rail expansion in the nation voted to increase tolls on a Virginia highway in part to help fund construction of the Silver Line.
On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority unanimously approved raising the full, one-way toll on the Dulles Toll Road to $2.75 effective January 1, an increase of $.50. In January 2014 toll will increase to $3.50.
The toll increases are a major part of the financing plan for the Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport, a 23-mile, $5.5 billion project whose first phase is scheduled for completion late next year. The MWAA board put off a decision to increase tolls again in 2015 because of the possibility of obtaining additional state and/or federal dollars.
MWAA has two avenues to secure additional funds: Virginia’s General Assembly, which has provided only $150 million to date, and the federal TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) loan program.
“Our project is, bar none, (one) of the more worthy projects in the country for TIFIA loan financing,” said MWAA Board Chairman Michael Curto in remarks to reporters after the agency’s vote. “We’ve seen the enhanced TIFIA loan program so we’re positioned well, given that the project is shovel ready. We’re ready to move."
Curto is not the only public official who has expressed optimism a federal loan with come through. However, MWAA has a lot of competition for TIFIA dollars. Nineteen major transportation projects totaling $27 billion are currently applying for loans, and Congress has authorized $1.75 billion for TIFIA the next two fiscal years.
“The pool is very small compared to what the needs are just for our rail system,” said Terry Maynard, a board member of the Reston Citizens Association, which represents 58,000 residents in a Fairfax County tax district. “It's going to be very hard to get a significant contribution.”
The association opposes not the Silver Line’s construction but its financing plan, which leaves fifty percent of the entire project’s cost on Dulles Toll Road users (75 percent of Phase II).
“We really want this to get built and succeed,” Maynard said. “We are pressing that all the money [MWAA] receives relieve the burden on toll road users.” Fairfax County residents have relayed their concerns to MWAA that drivers looking to avoid higher tolls will opt for already congested secondary roads, further clogging their communities with traffic.
Curto promised that MWAA will lobby Richmond for additional funding. He declined to criticize the McDonnell administration’s spending priorities, which have seen hundreds of millions of dollars allocated for highway expansions.
“We are going to reach out, work closely and hope to encourage the governor’s administration and the folks in Richmond that Dulles Rail should be the recipient of additional funds. As Secretary LaHood said, it is a model project,” Curto said.
Thursday, November 01, 2012
As election day quickly approaches, the nation’s attention has been glued to Governor Romney, President Obama, and most recently Hurricane Sandy. But this November, contentious races in the Senate will also produce lasting effects on the power balance in Washington. Adam Reilly is covering the senate race in Massachusetts for WGBH and Wes Hester is covering the Virginia senate race for the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Virginia is one of the prized swing states in this year’s presidential election. Washington Post Local Columnist Robert McCartney discusses the major issues that the state’s voters care about this year, on both the national level and in the tight Senate race there. Plus, we’ll look at the impact of economic shifts in Virginia over the last four years.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
The Fairfax Board of Supervisors has given final approval to a massive transportation funding plan for the future Tysons Corner.
The Tysons Plan looks 40 years into the future, anticipating 113 million square feet of new development by 2050 in a modern city rising west of Washington. The board on Tuesday approved $2.3 billion to build a new transportation network for the future Tysons Corner, which includes a grid designed for buses, pedestrians, and cars -- as well as four new Metro Stations. It will be paid for in part by commercial and residential taxes.
Fairfax County Board chairman Sharon Bulova heralded the move, calling it "a major step in the right direction" for the area. “Investing in Tysons is an investment in the future of Fairfax County," she said. "Never before has such a long range, comprehensive plan been developed to support a major redevelopment initiative."
But the vision of high-rise condos and gleaming corporate offices doesn't mean much to Lucille Weiner, a senior citizen who lives in a condo in Tysons and who spoke at a public hearing Tuesday before the board approved the plan. She said the tax increases on residential properties in Tysons Corner would make her life more difficult.
"As I read the reasoning around taxing the neighborhood that is Tysons Corner, I read the phrase 'the folks that will benefit the most,'" said Weiner. "It sure isn't me who will have to move if this happens. I appeal to my elected representatives to help stop this frivolous idea on the extra tax on the people who live in Tysons."
Michael Bogasky, the president of the residents association in Weiner's condominium, agreed with that assessment. "Let's create a new tax district so that we can pay more in taxes than anyone else in Fairfax County," he said.
Weiner believes the new taxes should not be on homeowners at all.
"When the Metro reached Greenbelt [Maryland], residents of Greenbelt did not get taxed, nor did residents of Vienna [Virginia]. when the Metro reached Vienna," she said.
Developers stand to gain the most from Tysons' future growth. One of them, CityLine Developers, supports the tax plan.
"If I ever thought there was a day that I would come and ask you to approve $13 a square foot in transportation proffers and ask you for a 7- to 9- cent tax on top of that, I probably should have retired," said Thomas Fleury a CityLine vice president, with a laugh. "That's what it takes to get the job done."
Other critics argue there is a risk to predicting tax revenues over 40 years and if the county's projections don't work out, the plan will fall apart.
But lawmakers say the plan is flexible enough to adjust to swings in the economy and the real estate market.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
The presidential campaigns only have 41 days left to get to every corner of every battle ground state and get out the vote. That effort includes Virginia, where Obama holds a slight lead. The Takeaway's Washington correspondent Todd Zwillich took a political road trip through the state to find out what locals are saying about the race.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
For skeptical voters in the battleground state of Virginia, Mitt Romney’s recorded remarks at a Florida fundraiser last week were just the latest in a line of revelations that are stoking doubts about the Republican nominee.
Friday, September 14, 2012
A recent Reuters article has found that some white voters in Virginia — who generally vote Republican — have concerns about Mitt Romney's wealth and religion. These concerns may prove especially important as the typically red state has emerged as one of the election's most important swing states.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
(with Martin DiCaro, Washington, DC, WAMU) Operator fatigue played a key role in a fatal bus crash -- but the NTSB says the driver wasn't the only one asleep at the wheel.
In a newly-released, often scathing report, the National Transportation Safety Board says "lack of adequate oversight" by the federal government was a contributing factor in a bus crash that killed four people in Virginia in 2011.
Sky Express, the bus company, failed to "exercise even minimal oversight of its drivers' rest and sleep activities" and allowed its drivers to behind the wheel "while dangerously fatigued," the NTSB has concluded.
The NTSB, which released the report at a board meeting on Tuesday, also takes the federal government to task for allowing the company to continue operations "despite known safety issues."
At the time of the May 2011 crash, Sky Express was still legally on the road even after being cited for more than 200 violations in the 10 months prior to the crash, according to NTSB records. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was working to shut the company down, but gave it a ten-day extension to fix safety problems. The crash happened during the extension period.
“Sky Express has no written safety policies including no driver’s handbook, they had no written drug and alcohol policy, they had no seatbelt policy, they had no cell phone policy, they had no in-service training,” said NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt.
The driver, Kin Cheung, faces four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman said she felt like it was Groundhog Day at the board meeting in Washington because the agency is once again talking about a bad carrier.
“This accident happened in 2011. We still have not figured out how to get the worst of the worst off the road,” Hersman said. The now-defunct Sky Express had been fined several times over the years -- but she said the $2100 in penalties it incurred did not spur it to safety.
“Clearly the penalty scheme is not a deterrent to putting tired drivers on the road, or putting unsafe vehicles on the road, because they continue to do it year after year after year,” Hersman said.
The NTSB's animation simulation of the crash is below.
Wednesday, July 04, 2012
July 4th won't be about the barbecues for many electrical workers. They're battling the heat and the growing needs of the many neighborhoods still without power.
Tuesday, July 03, 2012
(UPDATED 7:56PM) The final political obstacle to completing the Silver Line rail project to Dulles International Airport and west into the suburbs was removed on Tuesday when the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted 5-4 to “opt in” to the Phase 2 of the 23-mile, $6 billion commuter rail line.
The affirmative vote was greeted with a degree of relief. Had Loudoun County opted out, the project would have been delayed by at least 18 months. The remaining stakeholders would have been left to redesign the proposed route in order to eventually connect the Silver Line to the airport but no further into the county, where two Metro stops were planned.
“I’m relieved. It’s a big day for Loudoun. It’s a big day for my constituents,” said Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn), whose district will be the location of the last of 11 stops once the Silver Line is completed in 2018.
Buona can thank Supervisor Ken Reid (R-Leesburg) for providing the decisive swing vote. Reid had been leaning toward voting to opt out for weeks, but late last week moved to supporting the project once the board decided to create special tax districts around the future Metro stops to finance the county’s $270 million commitment to the Silver Line.
“I didn’t change my mind,” Reid said. “What happened was that we did a motion for the tax district, so I didn’t change my mind. The tax district takes the risk off the county’s taxpayers.”
In the special districts, commercial properties will be taxed at a high rate, sparing residential properties, because they stand to benefit the most from the presence of Metro. But supervisors who opposed “opting in” argued the tax revenue projections are flimsy.
“Everything I have looked at… really turns my stomach. There are so many aspects of [this project] that are not going to help the county. In fact, if you list the pros and list the cons, the cons far outweigh the pros at this time,” said Supervisor Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge), who joined Supervisors Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin), Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian), and Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) in voting against the county’s participation.
The months of contentious political debate did not reflect public opinion. While the county supervisors battled (and a vocal minority pressured elected officials to opt out), public opinion polls showed overwhelming support for bringing Metro to Loudoun.
The agency running the project, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, may now proceed with seeking bids from contractors.
“We’ve worked very closely with Loudoun to give them the information they needed to make this important decision and we are very happy that they are going to be a partner with us and Fairfax to move this important project forward,” said Patrick Nowakowski, who runs the rail project for MWAA. “In the next few weeks we will initiate the procurement process to hire a firm to design and build this project for us.”
MWAA will also begin setting the higher toll rates on the Dulles Toll Road, which are expected to finance 75 percent of Phase 2’s costs. Starting next year tolls are projected to increase to $9 round trip for a full toll.
“This is the way the [funding partners] came up with up to make this project and we are just trying to be good stewards of the public money and deliver the project as inexpensively as we can,” said Nowakowski.
There is no federal money involved in Phase 2 of the Silver Line (Phase 1 had $900 million federal dollars). The plan did not meet federal criteria for ridership and population density, so the financing burden fell further on users of the Dulles Toll Road, who will be faced with significantly higher tolls without access to Metro until 2018, when the Silver Line is supposed to be finished.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
(Sharon Rae -- Washington, DC, WAMU) In a swift legislative turn of events, the Virginia Senate abruptly passed the $85 billion state budget Wednesday -- without including money for a Metrorail extension to Dulles Airport.
The bill had been voted down three times in the past two months.
One moderate Democrat, Sen. Charles Colgan of Prince William County, broke with his party and joined Republicans to give the budget the one-vote majority required for passage. Colgan had been pushing Gov. Bob McDonnell for $300 million for the Metrorail extension to Dulles Airport, but he said the need to pass the budget outweighed the need to secure funding for the Silver Line project.
Democrats had balked yesterday over the Republicans' refusal to grant the funding for the Metrorail extension to Dulles, saying the costs for commuters who use the Dulles Toll Road would rise from $2.25 to $6.75 one-way within a few years. They argued that the sharp increase was an undue burden that could stifle the economy of Northern Virginia — a region that provides 40 percent of Virginia's tax revenue.
The budget bill now goes to the governor for consideration.
Meanwhile, officials in Virginia's Loudon County are deciding whether or not it wants to go ahead and shoulder its share of the construction costs.