Reston Wiehle Metrorail Station

Reston Wiehle Metrorail Station
Photo by ehplen, November 2013

Monday, April 27, 2015

MWAA: Silver Line Phase 1 Final Costs Up $76 Million, Phase 2 to Take 13 Months Longer & Add to Costs

April 27, 2015   

Airports Authority Updates Status of Silver Line Metrorail Construction Project 

Design Changes Enhance Safety, Reliability, Environmental Protection

Will Add Time, Cost; Will Not Impact Dulles Toll Road Rates 

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority announced Monday that design modifications
made to enhance the safety and reliability of the Metrorail Silver Line, along with remaining
work to finalize Phase 1 of the overall project, will add $76 million, or about 2.6 percent, to the
previously announced Phase 1 cost. The new Phase 1 cost remains within the original federally
approved Phase 1 budget.

Toll rates on the Dulles Toll Road will not be affected. Toll rates will remain at current levels
through 2018, and the previously published, decades-long toll rate schedule will remain
unchanged.  Revenue from tolls is one of several sources of funding for the Silver Line project,
which the Airports Authority is constructing for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit
Authority (WMATA).

A recently concluded global settlement with the construction contractor for Phase 1, Dulles
Transit Partners, along with the resolution of other outstanding matters – including the close-out
of Virginia permits which allowed Phase 1 work within Routes 7 and 123 in Tysons Corner, and
the execution of contracts to supplement certain Phase 1 work, as required by WMATA – has
allowed the Airports Authority to project a final Phase 1 close-out cost of $2.982 billion, which
represents an additional cost of about $76 million, and to move to the final close-out of the Phase
1 project.  The majority of the remaining work on Phase 1, which opened for business in July
2014, will be completed by the end of this year, including the delivery of 64 new rail cars at a
cost of $189.4 million to expand the Metrorail fleet.  Final close-out of Phase 1 is expected to
occur in 2016.

“The Phase 1 global settlement is an important milestone in the Silver Line project, following its
successful launch in July 2014,” Airports Authority CEO Jack Potter said.  “It gives us closure
on the most substantial cost component of Phase 1, ensures we will achieve the project’s federal
budget targets and allows us to maintain the existing toll schedule for the Dulles Toll Road.”

The ultimate impact of the Phase 1 additional costs may be reduced or even eliminated if the
contingency budget for Phase 2 of the Silver Line project is not fully used and the total project,
both Phases 1 and 2, comes in at or under the overall project budget.

The Airports Authority also announced an update to the construction schedule for Phase 2 of the
Silver Line project, which will extend service from the terminus of Phase 1 in Reston, Virginia,
through Washington Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County, Virginia.
More than 150 modifications have been made and integrated into the design for Phase 2. Many
of these modifications parallel design changes made in the latter stages of Phase 1 and will
enhance the safety and reliability of Phase 2.  The modifications, when combined with associated
weather and construction delays, have extended the Phase 2 construction schedule by about 13

“Over 100 design changes were made in Phase 1 – a large number of them ordered in the final
months of the construction process – requiring additional design, engineering, construction,
management and oversight work,” said Charles Stark, the Airports Authority’s executive director
of the Silver Line project. “For consistency, many of these same safety and reliability
modifications needed to be incorporated into Phase 2 of the project, which then impacted the

Potter said, “The added costs arising from Phase 2 design modifications will remain within the
Phase 2 contingency budget of $550 million and will have no effect on the toll rates on the
Dulles Toll Road. With our project partners, we are committed to limiting future design changes.
Phase 1 is already experiencing ridership beyond expectations, and significant construction and
development is underway along its path in the Dulles Corridor. We are confident that Phase 2
will experience similar success.” 
Construction of the Silver Line, one of the largest public transportation construction projects
underway in the country, is managed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, and is
being built in partnership with Loudoun and Fairfax counties and the Commonwealth of
Virginia, with financial assistance from the federal government.  It will be transferred to the
WMATA for operation upon completion. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Jet lagged at Dulles, Loudoun Times, April 22, 2015

Wednesday, Apr. 22, 2015 by Trevor Baratko

Anyone who doubts the severity of the problems facing Dulles International Airport – the hundreds of millions in capital debt, dip in passenger totals and a consistent failure to compete with the smaller Reagan National down the road – need only consider the speakers headlining an April 16 seminar on why Dulles matters.

There, in an open conversation hall at AOL's Dulles headquarters, stood a governor, a U.S. Senator, congresswoman and a half-dozen state and local politicians. All were speaking to the airport's importance, and listening were more than 300 stakeholders and interested parties. These were busy people – busy people who made time for Dulles, because they know the airport is struggling, and they know they need solutions.

Passenger counts at Dulles have fallen over the past decade, from a peak of more than 27 million in 2005 to 23.6 million in 2010 and less than 22 million in 2014. Cargo activity too has dipped, about 25 percent in the past five years.

Two key stats further underscoring Dulles' trials note that nearly the same number of travelers used Dulles and Reagan in 2014, this despite Dulles being 14 times larger than Reagan, and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates Dulles and Reagan, has racked up about $240 million in annual debt service.

Why does the success and viability of Dulles matter? It's simple, economists and politicians say. The airport generates more than $1.2 billion a year in state and local tax revenue for Virginia, D.C. and Maryland, and it supports nearly 250,000 direct or indirect jobs, according to a study commissioned by MWAA. . . .
Click here for the rest of this article.  

While the downward trend in Dulles air traffic has been know for some time, it's linkage and impact on the rest of the area's County--especially the much vaunted "Dulles Corridor" including Tysons and our own Reston--is another sign of the growing economic difficulty of Fairfax County and especially the Dulles Corridor which is counting on the Silver Line to be the engine of County growth for decades to come.  That fewer people that use or work or ship at Dulles only adds to the growing laundry list of things not quite working the way developers and politicians fantasized more than a decade ago when planning for the Silver Line got serious.

We can hope that completion of the Silver Line through IAD and into Loudoun County, now scheduled for 2018, will help reverse the trend for the airport and the corridor, but it will take a long, long time. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wiehle Station Metro users pay the highest fares in the Metrorail system.

This is Reston 2020's 2,000th post in its 5-1/2 year history in the blogosphere looking after the community planning interests of Restonians!  And more posts are on their way.

A really nifty article and graphic called Metrorail Revenue by Station--Visualized!  at Plan-It Metro shows that the people who use our first Reston Metrorail station pay the highest average fares of any users on the Metrorail system no matter the time of day. 
  • On an all day average, the 8,137 users of the Wiehle station pay $4.34 per entry, the highest anywhere on the Metrorail system.  The second highest average fare goes to the Vienna station at $4.08 per passenger.  In fact, those are the ONLY two stations--both in Fairfax County--that average more than $4.00 per entry in the entire Metrorail system.
  • During the morning peak period, the average 5,079 Wiehle station users pay $5.36 per user, the only users on the Metrorail system who pay more than $5.00 during the AM peak period.
  • During mid-day, Wiehle station users again pay the highest fares in the system at an average of $3.38 per user, just two cents ahead of their Vienna station counterparts.
  • During the afternoon peak period, Metrorail users entering the Wiehle station again pay the highest fare at a $5.18, the only average fare system-wide that exceeds $5.00.
  • And, finally, in the slack evening period, Wiehle station entrants again pay the highest average fares in Metrorail at $3.44, slightly ahead of their Vienna counterparts at $3.33 per person average.
So those who choose not to use the Dulles Toll Road because of the abusive charges to cover the building of the Silver Line also face the highest fares in the Metrorail system, morning, noon, and night.


Here's the interactive graphic:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Reston 2020 asks Planning Commission to correct errors and omissions in Reston land use map.

As the Phase II (suburban) Reston Master Plan draft goes to the County Planning Commission for consideration this week, Reston 2020 has written the Commission asking it to correct a series of omissions and errors in the draft Reston land use map.  The importance of the land use map has been highlighted by the ongoing case of Reston National Golf Course.  Here is the text of the letter sent to the Planning Commission:

 April 20, 2015

Fairfax County Planning Commission
Government Center
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 330
Fairfax, VA  22035

Re:   Proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment,
Item ST09-III-UP1 (B) – Reston Master Plan Phase II

Dear Planning Commissioners and Staff,

                Reston 2020 (an independent committee of the Reston Citizens Association) submits this comment regarding the Staff Report and Appendix A, Recommended Plan Text of the Reston Master Plan.  The Planning Commission’s public hearing on the draft Reston Master Plan Phase II comprehensive plan text is scheduled for this Wednesday, April 22, 2015

                Reston 2020 appreciates the many efforts of current and former county planning staff involved in the Reston Master Plan Special Study, particularly Fred Selden, Heidi Merkel, Richard Lambert and Feheem Darab, who all worked tirelessly on this project.

Phase I of the Special Study began in December 2009 and was completed with the adoption of the Reston Transit Stations Comprehensive Plan Amendment by the Board of Supervisors in February 2014.  Phase II kicked off with an open house in June 2014, but the first community meeting was not until September 2014.  County staff published final recommended Phase II comprehensive plan text on April 1, 2015, just six months later.

While Phase II was conducted under the new Fairfax Forward procedures, and thus was highly compressed, it provided some opportunities for citizens and community groups to provide input at four community meetings on varying topics, and subsequently to submit written comments on two staff working comprehensive plan text drafts.  Reston 2020 submitted several such comments.  These included comments in February regarding the importance of ensuring that all existing open space is carefully delineated in the draft plan text.

As recent events have demonstrated, preserving open space is an important, high‑profile issue in Reston.  It is very important that planned land uses for all parcels be fully and accurately described in the Reston Master Plan text, and essential that all existing open spaces be correctly shown on the accompanying maps to ensure their future protection.  As we explained in our February 2015 comment to county staff in this matter,

If the plan text does not specify land use categories for particular parcels or areas, than the maps must be absolutely clear and unambiguous to provide adequate notice to the public, provide necessary information to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors who will be asked to approve the proposed plan amendment and, most importantly, prevent future land use disputes.  In particular, open space representations must fully and accurately reflect existing conditions.
Reston 2020 Email (Feb. 13, 2015) (emphasis added).

                In addition to this commentary, Reston 2020 simultaneously submitted specific additions and corrections to the draft Reston maps.  We noted that,

the [then] draft plan text says the Reston Land Use map identifies private parks, recreation and open space owned by Reston Association, other cluster or condominium associations, other private owners, and Fairfax County.  Indeed, many Reston clusters have common areas owned by the respective homeowners association, typically separate legal parcels (e.g. Parcel A), which are subjected by the deed to county regulations, including regulations regarding open space, tree canopy, etc.  Despite the statement in the text (see page 19 of 76), the open spaces in clusters and condominium neighborhoods do not appear on the land use map.  These open spaces should be added.  In addition, to the extent that there is any doubt regarding the completeness of the maps, notes should be added to both the plan text and the map stating that the open space representations may be incomplete.
Reston 2020 Comments on Draft Maps (Feb. 13, 2015) at 1 (emphasis in original).  Reston 2020 made similar suggestions regarding the draft Reston Parks, Recreation and Open Space map, and the Existing Trails map.  Id. at 2.

Unfortunately, Reston 2020’s comments and suggestions regarding the handling of open space are not reflected in the final staff-recommended drafts.   The staff report and revised plan text continue to state the maps are complete, but open spaces in cluster and condo neighborhoods were not added, nor are there new notes advising readers that open space graphic representations are incomplete.  In fact, the staff report flatly states that all open space is shown, stating

All Public Parks, Private Recreation, and Private Open Space[s] are now reflected in Reston’s Land Use Map and are further detailed in the Parks and Open Space Map.  More parks & recreation facilities and open space are included in the Reston Land Use Map. 

Staff Report at page 7 of 12 (emphasis added).[1]  The draft comprehensive plan text is only slightly less emphatic.  It continues say the “Reston Land Use map identifies property owned by Reston Association, cluster or condominium associations, other private owners, Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and Fairfax County.”  Appendix A, PDF at 22-23 of 93.  It also states that,

Reston’s Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces are shown on the map below (Figure 13 (sic)).  The map is an elaboration of the Reston Land Use Map (Figure 4) displaying the parks, recreation and open spaces as described in the Community-wide Land Use section in more detail.  Reston’s Park, Recreation and Open Space map distinguishes between Reston Association’s parks and open spaces, and all other parks, recreation and open spaces in Reston

Appendix A at 43.

                As this discussion aptly demonstrates, the plan’s handling of the open space issue is misleading, at best.  Not only are both the staff report and plan text inaccurate when they state that all private open space is included, but the three maps are not complete because they do not designate all existing open space sites in Reston.

                Therefore, we request (1) that the draft comprehensive plan text for Reston (and accompanying maps) be revised to correct these errors, and (2) that the accompanying draft land use, open space and trails maps be updated to include all existing private open space, including open space owned by clusters and condominium associations.  If the addition of missing private open space on the maps proves logistically impossible, at a minimum notes added to both the plan text and map legends to reflect that not all open space is shown.

                Thank you in advance for your consideration.  Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Terry Maynard
Reston 2020 Committee

Fred Selden, C/DPZ
Heidi Merkel, DPZ
Faheem Darab, DPZ

[1]  The draft land use maps are Figures 4, 5 and 6.  The draft parks, recreation and open space map is Figure 14.  The existing trails map, which also includes open space designations, is Figure 13.

Op-Ed: Tetra Purchase is Poor Value, Worse Investment, RestonNow, April 20, 2015

This is an op-ed by Reston resident Terry Maynard. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Contrary to RA President Ellen Graves’ op-ed on Friday, the planned RA purchase of the Tetra property is neither a good value now nor a good investment in the long term. Only Reston voters now can stop this ill-conceived, secretly planned purchase by voting “NO” in the ongoing RA referendum.

The price RA has committed to paying, subject to the referendum vote, is $2.65 million. The $2.65 million price is two and one-half its current market value of the Tetra property as measured by both Fairfax County in its annual real estate assessment and the RA-funded appraisal and property condition report.

The County puts the value of the Tetra property at $1.20 million as of Jan. 1, 2015. That is down about $44,000 from last year. And, as you probably know, the County is obligated under state law to assess real estate at its fair market value.
The property appraisal prepared for RA by The Robert Paul Jones Company, LLC, (RPJ) walks through the property’s “as is” valuation in two ways: comparable sales and income approach. After putting the comparable sales valuation at $1.45 million and the income approach valuation at $1.1 million, it arrives at an “as is” fair market value of $1.3 million. (See p. 22 of the RPJ appraisal.)

The RPJ valuations assume that the building is in good repair. Yet, as RPJ notes in its income valuation of the property, “The subject’s historic maintenance and repair expenses for all expenses, including pest control and some expenses which are considered to be atypical, has averaged $1.74 per square foot on average for 2012 through 2014, ranging from approximately $0.34 per square foot in 2012 to $2.95 per square foot in 2014. We have stabilized this amount at $1.25 per square foot of GBA, or $3,910 annually.” (Page 20 of the appraisal.)

At its three-year average, annual maintenance and repair costs over the last three years actually reach more $5,440 –some 39 percent higher than the value “stabilized” by RPJ. Why we should expect future maintenance and repair costs to be lower than recent ones remains a mystery.

Yet, the Tetra building is not in good repair as RA directed the appraiser to assume (“deferred maintenance has been corrected”, p. 2). The property condition report from Criterium Engineers attests puts the needed repairs at about one-quarter million dollars; specifically, $257,410 over the next decade including $144,364 that needs to be done right away (see p. 4).

So, the true “as is” value of the Tetra property in good condition is the fair market value of $1.2-$1.4 million less the needed repairs of $257,410 to put it in good condition. That’s a net fair market price of the Tetra property in good condition of $943,000 to $1.143 million, call it $1 million dollars, nowhere near the $2.65 million that RA is committed to pay if this referendum is approved (although RA may get the priced reduced by the cost of immediate repairs–$144,000 — to roughly $2.5 million).

The only reasons that the price has been fixed at $2.65 million are that the President of Tetra Properties is insisting on receiving that price and the fact that the appraisal assumes, by RA direction, that a 6,930-square-foot restaurant can be added to the property, an extremely unlikely prospect given the restrictions on the property reflected in Tetra’s inability to sell the property to any restaurants for years. Otherwise, paying more than $1 million for the property is a grand waste of Restonians’ assessment fees.

Moreover, if RA is allowed by Reston voters to proceed with this “investment,” it will lose money for more than three decades, doubling the life of the current building. Using RA’s assumptions about the revenues and expenses of purchasing and operating the property in the RA “Fact Sheet” with some further assumptions about the longer term, we anticipate that cumulative losses will peak at $2.0 million 20 years from now, the last year in which RA has to make mortgage payments.

These calculations are shown in a Reston 2020 post. Extending this analysis out to 2050 (and adding only $10,000 annually for capital repairs and replacements after 2035) shows that the cumulative loss begins to shrink after the mortgage is paid, but does not reach break even or better until 2048 — 33 years from now.

The Tetra building will be 66 years old in 2048 and probably need to be torn down if it hasn’t been torn down already. And it cannot be re-built. The County’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance calls for the return to a natural state of all Resource Protection Areas (RPAs), such as this one, at the end of the natural life of existing structures. RA may never realize cumulative revenue on its purchase of the Tetra property.

Assuming the building is still standing and usable in 2050, RA’s cumulative annual return on investment will be 0.5 percent over the next 35 years. And, in real terms, assuming a 3-percent inflation rate as RA does, it will still be a losing investment, providing Restonians a negative 2.5 percent return annually for the next 3 1/2 decades. We would do better as an investment by putting Restonians’ $2.65 million in a money market account.

In sum, RA is willing to pay more than 2 1/2 times the current value of the Tetra property and we can expect that RA’s investment will lose money for the rest of the building’s useful life. It is a horrible purchase value and even more atrocious long-term RA investment. Vote “NO” on the Tetra property purchase to save Restonians’ money, sustain RA’s good financial reputation, and prevent unneeded spending.