News and notes from Reston (tm).

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Game of Drones: Doubts on the Future of Silver Line Phase 2 Now Revolving Completely, Not Just Partially, Around Partisan Issues

rcounty-loudoun.jpegFancy "news papers" have started to get wind of the idea that Phase 2 of the Metro Silver Line, the E ticket ride from Wiehle Avenue to Dulles Airport and the particleboard nirvana beyond it, is now in serious trouble.

After more than 10 years of planning to add 23 miles of Metro rail line in Northern Virginia, the second part of the Silver Line project could be dead before a spade of dirt is turned.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Virginia, and Loudoun and Fairfax counties are at a stalemate over pro-union labor deals, concerns about costs and an inspector general’s investigation of the authority.
Actually, it's now mostly Loudoun County that is at a stalemate, but it won't take much to tip over this whole cinderblock Jenga game. Even if there's a wonderful kumbaya moment and the Loudoun board of supervisors agrees to approve the project by July 4, construction on Phase 2 will have already been delayed. If they don't, it could be all over except the finger-pointing.
“This project will die if the stakeholders cannot get together and resolve their differences,” said Leo J. Schefer, head of the Washington Airports Task Force, a group of business leaders that supports the Silver Line.

“Underlying all of this is party political extremes that are being put ahead of public purpose,” Schefer said. “It’s become an emotional issue.”
That the future of this project hangs largely on objections crafted by national right-wing anti-union organizations speaks volumes about the state of politics in local government, as the Loudoun board is arguing/posturing that the labor agreement is a "deal breaker," as Loudoun Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles District)], put it. If we're going to have a controversy, can't it at least be about the names of the stations?

Former Governor and U.S. Senate Candidate Tim Kaine came to the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce last week to urge that the project go forward.
Just a few hundred yards from the Metro station where the $5.6 billion Dulles rail line would end if the project’s second phase falls through, U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine (D) told business leaders Friday that the Silver Line must reach the airport for the sake of the region, the state and the nation.

Kaine, the former governor who helped push the project through along with a bipartisan team of Virginia congressmen, took few partisan shots as he made his case.

Kaine credited the Bush administration, particularly the former transportation secretary, Mary Peters, for its role in awarding more than $900 million in federal aid for the project’s first phase. He even complimented his opponent in this year’s hotly contested Senate race, Republican George Allen, for his support of the project when he was in the Senate.

“That’s bipartisanship,” Kaine told a gathering of the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce. “As challenging as that was, we made it happen, and there’s no reason we can’t make sure Phase Two happens too.”
Even Reston2020, which has been a longstanding critic of the funding and oversight of the project, is calling for a solution to the impasse that allows the project to go forward.
Reston 2020 neither wants toll road users to be stuck with three-quarters of the bill nor a Metrorail line that ends at Wiehle station in Reston. It has offered a number of alternative financing ideas for Phase 2 and encourages its prompt construction as soon as those alternatives are in place. We all need rail to Dulles and we need those who will benefit most to carry the load.
Exactly. Keep clapping, kids!

Update: The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership, a coalition of business interests that are not exactly big fans of unions, is now calling on the airport authority to drop the labor agreement language. Which is great, because there are totally no other problems with the project that need to be hammered out for it to move forward.


  1. "... Silver Line must reach the airport for the sake of the region, the state and the nation."

    Wait, the fate of the entire nation rests (at least partially) in the hands of our Earth-tone paradise?

    We're doomed...DOOMED!

  2. Let me make sure I understand this: a county that features a Confederate Civil War soldier standing guard with a rifle pointed at every Yankee and recently freed slave to remind them of their place in the highest AMI tech capital county in America, a county that still hasn't received the telegram that war actually ended a few years ago, objects to entering the 21st century via rail?

    No way. I can't believe it. They can't be THAT far behind the time, can they?

    Will some one please notify the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors that the Titanic will not be arriving in port on case any of them have any friends or relatives on board.

  3. Maybe when they revive the project in 10 years they'll have the common sense to put the airport station underground where it belongs.

  4. Dulles Rail proponents have refused to provide fundamental facts about projected demand for riding the Phase 2 rail to nowhere and the economic and financial consequences of the project. The claimed project economic benefits are not grounded in reality but instead are nothing but "smart growth" hype.

    Even long planned projects in Tysons Corner are falling apart -see Monday's Washington Post.Some major Tysons Partnership members have been unable to agree on funding infrastructure costs.

    Guess who they want to pay most of the projected $3 billion in costs in the next 20 years.

    Wait until the horse manure hits the roof later this year when the Reston Master Plan is presented to the County Planning Commission. Based on Tysons experience, we won't know the costs to taxpayers until long after the plan is approved.

    Dulles Rail is a boondoggle to enrich landowners in Tysons and the Dulles Corridor plus a massive transfer of our income to benefit residents in Alexandria, Arlington County, Falls Church, DC and Maryland who are not paying the capital costs.

    The operating deficits of WMATA will continue to escalate due to the continued refusal of WMATA board to raise fares adequately to cover costs. WMATA has no viable plan to fund the presently estimated $13.3 billion needed in capital replacement costs for the original 103 mile system over the next decade.

    Guess who they expect to pay most of the costs? The riders? The federal government? Richmond, Washington DC and Annapolis? The Dulles Toll Road users?

    No, Fairfax County residents and business plus other local taxpayers.

  5. What has or should be a project for common good has turned into a political feast/fiasco for both parties. Quite a show.

    The Fairfax BOS is too far to the left, the Loudoun BOS is too far to the right.

    All we need is a metro extension, not any of extras both sides want to add. Incredible! How difficult can that be?

  6. Right-wing Anti-union? I didn't pick up that this was said in jest.

    If MWAA would just follow Virginia law instead of giving union companies an additiional 10% in revenue, just because they are union, then the cost, although still astronomical, would be lower.

    MWAA has made many mistakes, being the political appointed board it is with each memeber having their own agenda, this being one of its biggest, except for the idea of building a $3 million board room to celebrate their power. Thankfully, that was nixed.

    1. Actually, if you look at Steve Pearlstein's column today (link below) you will see that companies with union workforces and those w/ non-union workforces are paying about the same to their workers. There is no 10% cost savings from the union-bashing measure. Plus, the VA law you mention was just rammed through and represents a change in the state's prior negotiating commitments.

  7. Why do I feel like I know who these "anonymous" posters complaining about their tax rate are.

    I assume they're also petitioning VDOT to cease that expensive "paving" of Loudoun County roads that's been all the rage. And the School Board for not making uber cost-effective homeschooling mandatory.

    What's important, after all, is the tax rate.

  8. I fail to see what the fuss is. While I firmly believe that the Silver line should extend all the way to Dulles, it's no big deal if it doesn't. In fact, we can turn this to our advantage, if we play the cards right.

    First, the parking garages are owned by the County. We let county residents park in their for a nominal $1/day but charge everybody else $10/day. Better yet, make that $17, just to keep pace with the DTR tolls.

    Second, we block as many cut-throughs from LoCo to Fairfax, forcing them onto the major thoroughfares instead of slithering into and through the county on the back roads.

    Third, we offer to assist with the cost of the extension for a definite period of time, say, 3 years. After that, any extension will have to be funded with no financial assistance from us.

    Fourth, we close all of the ramps on DTR that the LoCo's would use to access Reston in both directions. If they insist on using the DTR to come to Reston, they're just going to have to backtrack in order to get to their final destination.

    Fifth, we offer rebates to all Fairfax County residents who USE the DTR during rush hour.

    The possibilities for "helping" Lo Co to see the light are unlimited.

  9. @The Convict: In other words, you'd like to pull the same stunt with Loudoun that Arlington has with Fairfax residents when it comes to regional transit? If it isn't enough that the main commuting artery to DC from Northern Fairfax is HOV restricted, do we think it was an accident that there isn't a direct exit from I-66 to the West Falls Church Metro Station?

    Somehow, that doesn't seem like much of a solution.

  10. Dear Convict--

    You have obviously spent too much time on the penal island in dark solitary.

    Please come back and join us in the real world.


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