News and notes from Reston (tm).

Monday, May 2, 2011

Metro Silver Line: Phase 2 Woes Continue, With Lawsuit, Labor, Funding Threats, and Fancy Report (With Appendices!)

new airport snap.jpg

When three different governing bodies hastily hire a graphic designer to fashion a fancy bit of letterhead with all three of their logos on the top of the page, you know someone's going to the woodshed! But Virginia, Fairfax, and Loudoun's repeated refusal to fund the fancy new underground Dulles Airport Metro station is just the tip of the iceberg as far as headaches involving Phase 2 of the fancy Silver Line Metro extension goes.

Cost overruns are leading to calls for audits. And people right-wing anti-labor activists are up in arms about the airport authority's decision to use a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) in Phase 2 of the Metro project, unlike Phase 1, which is being built by wage slaves non-union workers. Union members even crashed a press conference held by Rep. Frank Wolf to protest his opposition to the agreement. Someone had better put those unruly union workers in their place, or they'll start getting swelled heads like those fat cat teachers!

Also, two Virginia men have filed a class action lawsuit against MWAA, saying it has no authority to set toll rates and asking for $130 million in refunded tolls from the rate hikes slated to pay for the Silver Line extension. Oops! It's far from the first lawsuit that's been filed against MWAA or Metro, but this one seems to be based on a premise slightly more compelling than "I don't want to carry a roll of quarters with me every time I want to drive to Tysons."

Finally, our BFFs at Reston 2020 put together their own fancy report, with tables and appendices and everything, that suggests that Toll Road users will pay the brunt of the extra costs -- $752 million of the $1 billion overall increase for Phase 2, concluding that:
The growing costs and delays in building the Silver Line are increasingly putting its full completion in doubt.
It's telling that in this and in other commentaries, people are starting to suggest that Phase 2 might not actually happen. Let's just hope they manage to get the rail out to Wiehle before MWAA's problems take Metro down with them.


  1. I fail to see what the big deal is. Let the Toll Road users fully-fund the construction of the Silver line from Wiehle to Dulles including the full indoor station. If the LoCo Pass-Through commuters don't like it, they can use Routes 7 or 50. There are alternatives to 267.

    And if Phase Two doesn't happen, well, it's no sweat off of my back. I'll just take a cab from my house to the airport when I'm going on vacation.

    Heck, if it were up to me, I would make sure that every LoCo commuter that parks in the County lot at Wiehle pays 4-5 times what a Fairfax County resident pays.

  2. Fiasco. Under the leadership of Hudgins in the metro board. Time to see her go.

  3. I know this will disappoint the Hudgins haters out there, but the Metro board isn't the guilty party here. It's MWAA.

  4. I agree with Convict. Those who complaint about the toll rates on 267 can choose to use Leesburg Pike or head south to 50 or 66. It's a choice. You pay for convenience using 267 vs. 7, 50, or 66.

    How does MWAA setting toll rates to fund Phase II have much to do with Cathy Hudgins or any board member from Fairfax County? If you don't like the MWAA toll rates don't use the Toll Road.

  5. A Project Labor Agreement exists for Phase 1 of Dulles Rail. It permits non-union subcontractors who comply with Davis Bacon labor wage rates -about 20% higher than local wage rates.

    The Convict in the Gulag and his/her supporters would help society by riding their bikes to Siberia and staying there.

    The fundamental issue in the recently filed lawsuit against MWAA is fairness and "no taxation without representation." Dulles Toll Road users have paid over $800 million in tolls since the DTR was completed in 1984. Capital and financing costs for DTR are little more than $200 million. Add toll collection and maintenance costs of say $100 million since 1984 and it could be that the Commonwealth owes DTR users close to $500 million.

    By contrast, rail transit riders and Democrat politicians expect others - meaning taxpayers in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties-to pay for their rides. Let's create a "Plum tax" on Metrorail riders since Ken Plum founded and runs the Dulles Corridor Rail Association. Metrorail riders from Fairfax and Loudoun Counties should pay a $5 toll tax for every ride they take to help fund Dulles Rail. Since they have not paid for capital costs of Dulles Rail, residents of DC, Alexandria, Arlington and Maryland should pay $25 per ride until the Dulles Rail project debt is paid off.

    To the writer who thinks Cathy Hudgins "isn't the guilty party", it is because WMATA is next to bankrupt due to mismanagement and won't raise fares to pay for capital and operating costs that MWAA came into the picture to build the rail line.

  6. Oh! We have a new entry for the Hudgins, Lake Anne, Section 8 list: Siberia!

  7. If Phase 2 gets killed that is good for Reston - we will be at the end of the line and everyone will want to live here!

  8. Anon @ 10:16:

    A fair number of people who read this blog don't want more people to come to Reston. Unfortunately, they won't stop building around us, meaning we'll still be stuck in gridlock.

    Phase 2 getting killed would be a terrible thing from an economic standpoint. All the opposition to a project geared to making us (slightly) less car dependent simply baffles me. If you want to continue driving, you probably should pay more on the Toll Road. There's a whole series of lanes being built by the private sector on the Beltway predicated on that very idea.

  9. That's true 10:16 --- and one can look to Vienna for inspiration. Who wants to go to low-down county anyway? On a train? Are you kidding? That would muss my big hair!

  10. The entire MWAA, WMATA Metro with its incestuous governance is a compete disastrous mess.

    And, yet, we still have redundant, toll-free freeway to and from Dulles that is very self-serving and beneficial to very few, but paid for by all tax payers. What's up with that?

  11. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonMay 3, 2011 at 12:14 PM

    While I can't speak about Phase II financing as a whole, there is a very simple solution to funding the underground station that MWAA wants at Dulles -- without sticking it to local Toll Road commuters and local governments.

    According to the airport's official statistics, Dulles now has 24 million passengers a year. Assume half of them are departures. If MWAA put a $2 surcharge on tickets for those passengers, that's around $25 million a year, meaning the cost of the underground Metro station ($350 million, I believe) could be paid off in about 15 years.

    This puts the cost of the station on the users of the airport. We're always told that highways tolls are collected so that those who use the roads pay for their upkeep -- fair enough -- so the same principle should apply here at Dulles. Wasn't one of the main selling points of the Silver Line, after all, that it would create a public transportation link to Dulles Airport?

  12. Ah, Peasant, you fell for the "big lie!" And you are not alone; there is so much misunderstanding about the Dulles station.

    According to MWAA's briefing to its Board, the mid-lot underground station at Dulles--the one picked by the Board--will cost in the low- to mid-900 millions (a bit short of a billion bucks). The point you make (as have many others) of $300-plus million has to do with how much MORE this option costs than the aboveground North Parking garage (high $500 millions). Just for the record, the under the terminal option most recently clocked in at $1.4 billion.

    You can read all this and much more in the "fancy" RCA 2020 report Restonian links to above. (If one calls 24 pages of economics and finance "fancy," one has a really weird view of the world--one befitting us Restonians.) I really encourage you (all) to read it.

  13. To the "Anonymous" poster who suggested that MWAA charge Dulles passengers a $2 surcharge to help pay for the underground station, I agree with your proposal that passengers should pay the incremental cost but it can't be so.

    The FAA limits the current "Passenger Facility Charge" at US airports to $4.50 per departing passenger. Due to never publicly disclosed information on cost overruns for the Aero Train project, MWAA has committed PFC revenue at Dulles to the year 2047 to help repay the costs.

    MWAA had counted on Congress raising permitted PFC charges to $7 per passenger but that looks unlikely to happen. Instead, MWAA plans to allocate PFC revenues from Reagan National Airport to help pay for the MWAA 4.1% share of Dulles Rail capital costs.


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