News and notes from Reston (tm).

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Soapstone Bridge Won't Come For More Than A Decade, But New Taxes Could Come Much, Much Sooner


Hey, remember that time when Fairfax County acknowledged that all the bollardy construction goodness popping up around the Toll Road might necessitate another bridge, or underpass, or teleportation tube, to keep South Reston-to-Michaels scrapbooking runs to under an hour, or whatever?

Yeah, that was awesome. While the county earmarked $2.5 million for preliminary planning of the Soapstone bridge way back in ought-fourteen, we learned last week that bids for construction won't be sought until the mid-2020s. Give us some infuriating blockquote, BFFs at Reston 2020:

At the community meeting last week, it was revealed that the Soapstone Connector, recommended for construction by RMAG--the Board-appointed committee that looked at transpo needs related to the arrival of Metro--in 2009, will not be opened for construction bidding until the middle of the next decade. It won't be completed until late in the 2020s.

So while Reston's TSAs may get patched sidewalks (which is about all that has been done by the County of the several dozen transportation improvements recommended by the RMAG), don't expect any substantial roadway improvements for about 20 years--even though development is going on unabated.

Between this bit of news and the nine-year wait to build the W&OD overpass over Wiehle Avenue, you might be starting to suspect that Reston might not be at the top of the county's priorities, even as new developments continue to be approved at blistering rates. But nothing could be further from the truth, silly rabbits, as there's one high-priority county project that's gotten the fast track. That's the plan to create a Very Special Tax District, soon, to fund transportation improvements that could be a decade in the making.

Opposed by the Reston advisory group created to study it as well as Reston as a whole, the Very Special Tax District could come to a vote by county supervisors as early as the end of the year. Our BFFs at Reston 2020 have created an online petition opposing the Very Special District, arguing that developers should pay the full freight of the $2.6 billion in anticipated transportation improvements that might, eventually, get done:

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will likely approve a Transportation Service District (TSD) creating an additional property value driven tax on all property owners in Reston's Metro station areas by the end of 2016. The TSD's purpose, based on faulty assumptions, is to fill an alleged $350 million "gap" in tax revenues for improving roadways in the station areas as high-density development unfolds.

The Board will most likely approve a TSD that will add 1-3 cents to the property tax rate now experienced by station area property owners. Moreover, three years of experience at Tysons with a similar TSD indicates that the Board will double or triple the rate within 3-4 years.

The added tax will not be difficult to absorb by developers who will see huge financial gains there in the coming years. Estimates based on recent experience suggest commercial real estate profits will average more than a billion dollars per year in Reston's station areas over the next four decades--and County property tax revenues will grow right along with the growth in property values.

Unlike County and developers' coffers, however, station area residents will not see any revenue gain from the development that occurs there. Nonetheless, they will have to pay this added property value-driven tax as property values and tax rates escalate.

Moreover, not only will they not derive any financial benefit from the tax like their commercial and county counterparts, they will actually experience worse traffic conditions by County intent. Specifically, the County is lowering the performance standard for these roadways, including Reston's four key through north-south and east-west boulevards, from a Level of Service "D" to Level of Service "E." That means peak period congestion there is likely to cause at least 55-80 second delays at each intersection.

There is no logical, ethical, or other valid reason why Reston residents should pay more road taxes for worse road service so others can profit even more from the arrangement. Those who profit--real estate developers and the County--should pay the full burden of improving Reston station area roadways to accommodate the massive job and residential growth planned there.

We can't fault the county for trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip find new revenue streams, but you would think if they were trying to convince a skeptical community of the value of taxing itself, they would have made actually, you know, addressing its needs more of a priority--maybe completing some of them before massive redevelopment began, or even just putting up a bunch of orange traffic cones and a sign saying "PARDON OUR DUST" to create the illusion of forward progress.

You would think.

As of today, 112 people have signed the R2020 petition. Learn more here.


  1. Just so I understand, are you saying Reston is running for president in 2020?

  2. Thanks! Every dollar the tax service district generates from residents is just another dollar of county-wide money that the Board doesn't need to spend in Reston.


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