News and notes from Reston (tm).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Metro Silver Line Shocker: Trains, Tracks, Malfunctioning Farecard Machines Cost 'Money,' And Lots of It

PH2007101501531.jpgA fancy "audit," probably conducted by some dude wearing one of those hawt green banker visors and operating a crank-powered adding machine, has come up with a shocking revelation: Metro's Silver Line extension, which will bring the Cheescake Factory mass transit to Reston, and ultimately Dulles and the particleboard wastelands of Loudoun County if it doesn't run out of money, might run out of money.

During a meeting of the [Fairfax County Board of Supervisors] Audit Committee Tuesday, Auditor of the Board Michael Longhi noted the tolling rates in the study, which depicts tolls of $7.50 for a full trip on the road 30 years from now, are adequate to repay debt for Phase I of the rail project but don't account for Phase II.

The airports authority currently is scrubbing cost estimates and designs for the second phase of the project, estimated at $3.8 billion, and will competitively bid the contract. Financing plans will be refined during this process.
Awkward! Part of the problem is that the airports authority tried to have it both ways, projecting that the Silver Line would attract 10,000 new daily riders when trying to prove the benefits of the project -- while simultaneously arguing that the arrival of Metro won't affect the number of cars plying the Toll Road when making revenue projections, which are heavily dependent on all those quarters that get thrown into their grimy plastic baskets.
In April 2010, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority commissioned a tolling study that projected toll rate increases that would be needed to support the $1.3 billion in bonds the airports authority issued in 2009 and 2010. The study also projected the amount of decreased traffic that would result from the tolling increases.

However, that study does not depict any decrease in the number of toll road users after the first segment of the new Silver Line opens at the end of 2013, according to a draft report from the county's Office of Financial and Program Audit. Fewer users could decrease the revenue projections.

During 2009 public input sessions on toll increases, about 50 percent of the current Dulles Toll Road users commenting said they would use the Silver Line when it opens.
Oops. Actually, there's a school of thought that suggests that any improvement in roads or other infrastructure won't result in less traffic, but more development (e.g., pretty much the entire eastern half of Loudoun County), but still!
More than 57 percent of the funding for the full $6.5 billion Silver Line construction is planned to come from the toll road. Fairfax County is paying 16 percent, the federal government less than 15 percent and Virginia, Loudoun County and the airports authority will fund the rest...

Upon the auditors' recommendation, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is expected to ask the airports authority to more fully disclose the impact of drivers making the switch to transit in future tolling studies. The board likely will take up a motion on the matter when it adopts the quarterly audit report next week.
Probably a good idea. And good on Fairfax County for calling MWAA on it.


  1. Somebody should tell LoCo to get their own Cheesecake Factory.

  2. HELLO??? what kool-aid are we consuming?

    We were told that the "toll" road would be free after it was paid for. It's been paid (more than once?) for and what do we get? HIGHER tolls and for years to come!

    Want to ride this dangerous thing? Fork over a projected $10, each way, to reach the Hill. And there will surely be parking charges too.

    This "subway," hideous eyesore that it is and will be, is the mother of all waste. Toll road users, most of whom will never use the elevated "subway," will be paying for this Hudgins boondoggle for decades to come!

    Let's not forget that this is the same metro that has killed people, that Hudgins "supervises" and that can't seem to keep an escalator working.

    Just like she "supervises" Reston -- stuffed full of her "lower-income" subsidized-housing residing constituents.

    The "silver" line will cost more than all of the rest of the metro lines put together -- mark my words -- and we will all be paying for it forever.

  3. Blaming Hudgins for the Silver Line is like blaming Obama for the weather -- lots of fun to do if you're of a certain frame of mind, but really besides the point. There are far greater incompetents far higher up the Metro food chain.

  4. For Anon above: I wouldn't blame Obama for all the cold air we've been having lately....

    ...maybe lots of hot air, but not cold air.

  5. That's really pretty ignorant 7:21.

    Hudgins is on the metro board. That's the point.

    She's supposed to be a leader and she's the face of failure -- the worst of the government.

    Metro has gone from being the state-of-the-art international model to an embarrassment to the nation. In less than a generation. And now we want it here? In Reston? No thanks.

    Hudgins is on the metro board and the incompetents report to her. It's that simple -- the buck stops with her -- and in this case billions of OUR bucks.

    That's the point.

    Metro, under Hudgins' watch, even managed to screwe up its insurance. And we, the toll payers, are getting stuck paying for that mess and the related money-sucking, not-face-saving litigtion.

    How Hudgins sleeps at night, with the world knowing many people have died on her watch, boggles the mind.

  6. 57 percent being paid by DRIVERS on the toll road? That, of course, does not include their property, gas, sales, income and other taxes that those other governmental entities turn around, less some waste, fraud and abuse, and then pay their share...

    How mush will those 10,000 RIDERS on the train pay?

    I sure wish airlines were funded this way...

  7. Monday through Friday, I crawl my way to and from work on the disaster that is the DTR. It is a tortuous drive of stop and go traffic that climaxes with long delays at the toll booths and even longer delays on the one lane merges to the Beltway. Alternatives? There are none. The side streets are jammed. Bus to Metro to my job = 2+hours. I don't give a $hit what the silver line costs or how high the tolls go. What I want is a solution or in the least, another option.

  8. Quit your job and live for free in one of Hudgins' subsidized residences?

  9. The alternative is to live, work, and play in Reston, of course.

  10. Hey, Virginia benefits from the Silver Line. Why are we paying the highest cost by our toll road use while our taxes are building roads in rural Virginia? The other benefactors, the airport users, they aren't paying anything. We are paying because the avenue exists. Bottom Line. Nobody else has a "special" tax for their metro service. Why are roads so important but other modes of transportation are battle grounds for states not wanting to invest revenue? Please.

  11. Listen, those toll rates were heading up regardless of the silver line. Ever hear of a toll road that suddenly paid for itself and the tolls were reduced or lifted completely? Nope, me neither.

    Think those federal tax dollars would have been spent locally without the silver line? Nope, they would have been committed elsewhere.

    Think the local roads and infrastructure aren't 20 years behind the current demand? Try and get anywhere in this region between the hours of 6am and 10am or 4pm and 8pm. You'll waste countless hours of your life in mindless traffic while the Middle East gets rich off your idling.

    The majority of roads around here are hee-haw and left over from the days when this was a sleepy rural farm community. Due to Richmond's lack of interest, poor planning by local officials or both - this region is quickly becoming a cluster. Look around, there are very few cloverleafs on highways, short or inadequate turning lanes, very few 'smart' traffic signals and way too many old country lanes carrying 30x their intended capacity.

    The reality is, we need a humongous injection of infrastructure spending and transportation options in the Dulles corridor. Without it, business doesn't want to be here and people won't either. Pay now or pay much more later.

  12. I love when people's answer to the regions transportation problems is to move or find a closer job. These people got it good, real good. And the odds are, they won't have it this good for long.

    The probability of two people in a family finding decent paying jobs they actually want to wake up and go to that are within the city limits is a pipe dream. Even if you find that job, the chances of that company staying profitable and you keeping that job for more than a few years is slim to none.

    People don't sit in hours of traffic because they just aren't smart enough to click "within 10 miles" on, they sit in hours of traffic because they have no viable alternative.

  13. New roads don't improve congestion, they increase demand. And with more roads we will have more run off and have to armor more wetlands with an artificial and short term restoration regime. Leadership and/or forward thinking creative thought anybody? I'm out of ideas.

  14. Anon 9:54 said "Ever hear of a toll road that suddenly paid for itself and the tolls were reduced or lifted completely?"

    Virginia Beach Expressway was a toll road from 1967 - 1995. It is no longer a toll road. Do try and keep up.

    Personal note: I saw this financial disaster approaching, and it contributed to my move to another state. My mistreatment by the DRB and my assessment of Reston's future were contributing factors.

  15. Convict in the Gulag, Dulles Town Center already has a Cheesecake Factory

  16. Uplands, so was I-95 through Richmond, until about 1992 or thereabouts. I believe there is (or was) a caveat in Virginia law that said that money raised from public toll roads (not to be confused with the "private-public" gougefest west of Dulles) had to go back into their upkeep. Hence the endless repaving of the shoulders on the Toll Road until they got the ball rolling on the Metro extension.

  17. Not talking new roads. Talking about upgrading/improving existing roads to meet the current demand. FFX county is full of two lane country roads with outdated intersections and traffic signals that were designed to meet the demands of traffic 50 years ago. Think the unnecessary congestion on these choked roads doesn't impact the environment? Think again. It's the small improvements of straightening a country road, adding a lane, putting in longer turn lanes and updating the traffic signal that will save this region. I often sit for 3 or 4 cycles of a traffic light when there's no traffic in the opposing direction, just an antique traffic light working on a timer. We talk hybrid cars, we talk HOV, we talk mass transportation, we talk smart growth, but we don't talk about these infrastructure changes that would save time, gas and emissions.

  18. Let's not forget, when we are complaining about costs, how having a metro station here will increase our home property values. Subtract the other costs from what is likely to happen in this regard, and we come out on the up side. I personally plan fund my retirement by renting out my metro-accessible townhouse for twice what I pay on the mortgage.

  19. @ 10:38 Look at Centreville, nearly totally eliminated by turn lanes and clover leaf ramps, and did the congestion go away, no. But I can drive more quickly through there during non-rush hour times.

    In the many years I lived in Centreville the area went from walkable to having to drive across the road. Better traffic lights? Yes, Better turn lanes? Yes. Straightening, widening, and ramps, no. Volume is the problem and that will not change, it will get worse, especially with all of the planned development in Reston. We can chose to be urban or choose to be Centreville. Not a real choice in my mind. Urban is where we are headed. The little country roads around us will become our Foxhall roads. In other jurisdictions circles are added so there is no waiting. Why not in Reston?

    The development of Reston will continue to add volume. There needs to be a more holistic approach to people moving, and it needs to happen now. The alternatives have to be reasonably compatible with driving in terms of cost and time or there has to be a big reward (very reduced expense?) for traveling in something other than a car.

    I will be selling my home if there comes a time when Reston Avenue is a superhighway. The advantages of having a metro and quick traffic do not trump a walkable community, and I'd hate to see Great Falls and Hunter Mill straightened, they are National Scenic By-ways aren't they, because you occasionally idle in traffic. I travel 26, 000 miles a year and the only traffic I can really cry about is between the toll road and 270 during rush hour. Well, route 7 is pretty bad, but I can avoid it by driving on country roads and it is no worse that University Park, DC, Arlington, Alexandria... Centreville should be a lesson in desolation. It has no sense of place anymore.

  20. @ Anonymous 7:18:

    Centreville was actually ranked the 30th best place to live in the country.

    Apparently 10 lanes of traffic and multiple cloverleaf intersections are GOOD things.

  21. Old Centreville runs up the roads into Bull Run now, which I heard would happen. They needed to annex some land I guess, since the clover leaf is nearly on top of the Old Town area. That was one of the few places I moved away from due to the traffic (the other was Springfield) A commute downtown from Centreville would take an average of three hours of my day. Like I said, no improvement when the bulldozers came because the volume is too great, and all of the roads everywhere can not handle it. We have a car culture that is very young in historic terms. It is a good time to open the box and figure out our future.

  22. The roads will be improved, and Metro will come, but none of it will help because of population growth. We do need the road improvements, and we do need more transit. But the only things that would truly help would be transportation improvements coupled with population decreases, a massive move toward telecommuting and/or off-peak commuting, people resolving to live close to work regardless (whether by buying close to work or seeking jobs close to home, and considering a job close to home to be a necessity) -- most likely some combination of all of those. There are only so many roads, only so many places to put roads, only so much that existing roads can be widened, only so many improvements possible.

    Does anyone believe that if we did every single measure possible to improve things, that we'd end up with something we actually like? More like we'd only end up with something we can tolerate a little better.

    Each person is responsible for his/her own sanity. Consider the best-case scenario to be that traffic only marginally improves, and plan accordingly.

  23. I'm entirely with you, 9:31. It doesn't matter what we do to our roads as long as a lot of extra (unwanted) population is coming to our area. Any extra capacity and efficiencies that we create to our transportation system will be consumed by an increase in population and volume. I would bet that consumption will happen almost as soon as the extra capacity becomes available.

    What we need more than a transportation management plan is a population management plan. Frankly, I'm a big fan of culling the herd.

  24. all this reminds me of the 'Rod Blagojevich Memorial Highway' in Chicagoland ... er, I mean I-94....

  25. "Unwanted" population? Now who the hell are you to make that kind of decision?

    And "culling the herd."

    We better call 911 and have you arrested.

  26. Well, Convict and others are within their rights not to want to region's population to grow. Personally, I don't have an opinion on it; the region's growing, and that's that.

    I can't even begin to guess what Convict is getting at with "culling the herd", but I'm definitely not going there.

  27. Convict is charming when he's being Malthusian, but I am beginning to wonder if the major hiring firms in the area, as well as the growth of gov agencies, will provide the same thing in the next few years. I sense a pullback from growth, driven by the mothballing of major defense and civil initiatives. Looking back, I refer to the growth of homeland security, which took up the economic slack nine years ago... do we have another "man to the moon" initiative to fill the coming void in DC area jobs? We can ill afford such a thing, but that hasn't stopped us before.

  28. Georgetown Pike and Hunter Mill should both be widened. They are dysfunctional snob roads that keep this area in gridlock. They are no more "historic" than Leesburg Pike, Braddock Road, Ox Road or any of the other old roads in Fairfax County where George Washington slept.

    If we can 6 lane Braddock Road used during the French and Indian War by George Washington, why not widen Georgetown Pike so traffic can bypass Tysons?

  29. BINGO --- all of those roads should be fixed and widened. They are dangerous and they are eyesores what with trees growing out of the sides of the barren and rapidly eroding hills through with those roads pass.

    Just imagine what it will be like the next time there is a need to crash and we are all toast!

    George Washington certainly would have approved!


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