Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Thursday, March 3, 2011

"Virginia's white elephant needs to be put down," Washington Examiner, Barbara Hollingsworth, Local Opinion Editor

Note:  In the interest of inclusiveness in this blog--covering all points of view--I am posting this blog by columnist Washington Examiner local opinion editor Barbara Hollingsworth.  I will make two notes, however:
  • Ms. Hollingsworth reports that the Silver Line will "cost" $30 billion over 50 years. quoting our own Rob Whitfield.  That's $600 million per year or less than $2 million per day.  She does not mention, however, what fares or tolls will be needed to fund that daily cost, much less whether they will be excessive.  (In fact, MWAA reporting on future tolls suggests they may reach $7 each way in 2010 dollars.  That is a lot.  This requires study, a task that RCA Reston 2020 is beginning to take on.) 
  • She also mentions that the area surrounding the Silver Line does not meet Virginia's "requirement" for 6,667 people per square mile.  It's not clear if that's residents or residents and workers.  NTL, the areas along the Silver Line will likely meet that density over the 50-year horizon she uses for her cost estimates, and probably much less time.  (Reston is about 3,900 res./sq mi. even now.)  So, should we wait until roads are absolutely gridlocked by high-density SOV commuting, or try to plan for that residential and business density?
In order to take advantage of low construction costs, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and the General Assembly agreed to incur $4 billion in debt in order to expand and maintain the commonwealth's extensive highway system, which has become seriously degraded after years of neglect.
But McDonnell still hasn't done anything about the commonwealth's $30 billion white elephant. That's the total estimated cost of the Dulles Rail project, of which Phase 1 is currently under construction.

In 2009, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority -- which is managing Phase 2 -- publicly disclosed for the first time in a bond prospectus that tolls on the Dulles Toll Road would have to reach double digits by 2047 in order to pay off $18 billion in construction bonds plus interest.

And that doesn't include the unfunded operating costs, anticipated to be $100 million or more annually, which will add another $7 billion to the bottom line. As Rob Whitfield of the Dulles Corridor Users Group testified before the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors in July 2009, "Dulles Rail will cost us $30 billion in the next 50 years."

Read more at the Washington Examiner

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