News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, January 27, 2012

Citing Faulty Toll Road Projections, Reston Citizens Association Calls For Halt on Phase 2 of Silver Line Until Independent Forecast Is Completed

qbert_quarters.jpegThe newest potential stumbling block to Phase 2 of Metro's Silver Line? A fancy 81-page report from our BFFs at the Reston Citizens Association, complete with "scatter plots" and footnotes that say, in essence, that current projections for Toll Road usage and revenues are basically full of crap and that drivers may have to pay for all that false optimism with rolls of quarters on future Crate & Barrel runs to Tysons. Happy Friday, policy wonks!

In letters to all the key stakeholders -- Virginia Governor McDonnell, the FHWA, MWAA, and Fairfax and Loudoun counties -- the RCA argues that no decision should be made on proceeding with Phase 2 of Metro construction until "an independent traffic and revenue forecast" is undertaken.

“RCA has long been enthusiastic about Metrorail to Dulles via Reston,” said Terry Maynard, the report’s principal drafter, “but we do not want a rail line at any price, especially one that forces Dulles Toll Road users to absorb most of the financial burden and area communities to absorb added traffic on already crowded local roads. The prospects are even worse if the WSA forecasts overestimate revenues as much as our research suggests. We hope that an independent forecast, combined with ‘value engineering’ for Phase 2 and restructuring the financial arrangements will lead to a better outcome for everyone.”
Entitled "Plenty of Room for Error," the RCA study argues that "optimism bias" is the main culprit of the current Toll Road revenue projections, citing a whole slew of examples from past projects around the country and charging that current local projections used the best-case estimates of population and job growth, even before the projected decline in federal government spending reared its ugly head.

"We cannot find any recent case in which an existing toll road has absorbed an additional multi-billion dollar debt and succeeded financially," the report states, pointing to projects elsewhere currently facing default.

Without changes in the funding formula, the report argues that one-way tolls will rise to $15, $20 or more within the next 20 years.

RCA raises valid concerns, but an equally grave concern is what happens if Phase 2 doesn't get built for whatever reason -- and the folks in the particleboard Nirvana to our west are already getting cold feet. A Silver Line that ends at Wiehle Avenue is essentially a guarantee of gridlock for Reston, so let's hope some realistic projections and smart decisions come out of this, instead of the bold suggestions we've seen in recent months.


  1. I forgot, other than the RCA, what DOES RCA support?

  2. Let's face it. Phase 1 of this project will ruin our favorite mauve hued community. Phase 2 just adds insult to injury. Reston should change it's name to West Arlington now and be done with it.

  3. Gee Mr Peabody, set the Wayback machine for 1965. I don't know why we ever left -- I felt so safe back there, and it's so scary here in reality.

    Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my!


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