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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wilbur Smith Associates DTR Traffic & Revenue Study re Toll Sensitivity, July 21, 2009

The following is an extract from the 2009 Wilbur Smith Associates study for MWAA, "Comprehensive Traffic and Revenue Study," on the impact of toll changes on Dulles Toll Road revenues and traffic.  This two-page section (pp. 5-8 & 5-9) discuss the sensitivity of of traffic to DTR toll increases.   We have added emphasis to the key sentence in this excerpt. 

The key point from this is analysis is that Wilbur Smith Associates believes that MWAA can raise tolls to $12 and beyond by 2023 and still increase toll road revenues.  This will come at some loss of ridership, but the rate increase will more than offset the loss of traffic on the toll road in their view. 


Toll sensitivity analysis tests a series of toll rates to aid in the selection of toll rate for the
DTR corridor. Future year toll sensitivity curves are based on changes in traffic
characteristics in the corridor including increasing congestion, value of time, competing
facilities, and inflationary trends. These curves are essential in estimating the viability of
future toll rate increases.

In general, the toll sensitivity curve suggests that when toll rates increase, a portion of
travelers will leave the toll facility in favor of other routes. Therefore, as the toll rate
increases transactions would tend to decrease. However, as the toll rates increase, toll
revenues increases until a point where a maximum revenue is generated after which
additional toll rate increases would generate a decrease in toll revenues.
Toll sensitivity analyses were conducted for the years 2010 and 2023. Figure 5-6
illustrates the daily toll sensitivity curves for these years estimated for the DTR. Main
line toll rates, in nominal year dollars, ranging from $1.00 to $12.00 were analyzed for
both 2010 and 2023.

The sensitivity analyses results indicate that the projected toll rates of DTR are well
below the estimated theoretical revenue maximization point. This demonstrates that there
would be considerable potential for revenue enhancement through toll increases above
current rates and even for those assumed for forecasting purposes, if needed.
Revenue-maximizing main line tolls are estimated to be somewhere above $7.00 in 2010
and somewhere above $12.00 in 2023.
For ease of reference, each curve has been labeled
at projected toll rates in each year.

Opinion: The Dulles Metro station isn’t the problem. The Toll Road increases are., Washington Post, July 29, 2011

By Robert Clarke Brown, Published: July 29

At last, Northern Virginia’s elected officials have gotten what they wanted. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has acceded to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s request to change the original Dulles Metrorail project alignment — an alignment agreed to just four years ago by all parties — and to build an inferior station at Dulles International Airport. Unfortunately, getting what they wanted won’t fix the real problem facing Northern Virginians.

That’s because the problem confronting Dulles Metrorail is not the project’s cost but high tolls. . .
. . . It should hardly be a shock, then, that the tolls needed to support Dulles Metrorail will be eye-popping. To be sure, the secretary’s process, by reducing Phase 2 costs (and shifting $400 million of costs to Fairfax and Loudoun), will have some mitigating effect on tolls. But even at the $2.8 billion cost the secretary has found acceptable, today’s $2 toll is projected to be $13 in 20 years, $17 in 30 years. . . .

Robert Clarke Brown, a professor of finance at an Ohio university, is a member of the MWAA Financial Committee.  For the rest of this article, click here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Letter: Can the Dulles Corridor sustain tolls of $21.50 in 2020?, Fairfax Times, July 29, 2011

Would you pay $21.50 in tolls to get to and from work each day — or $5,160 per year? That is the question employers and residents of Tysons Corner and the Dulles Corridor are going to ask before locating there. Without exception, the businesses and residents I have talked with are answering with a resounding no. What will this mean for the future of Tysons Corner and the Dulles Corridor and the residents of Fairfax County? Nothing good.

The Dulles Corridor and Tysons Corner are the economic engines of Fairfax County, Northern Virginia and the entire Commonwealth of Virginia. The Dulles Toll Road is a key component of that corridor. Residents throughout the state and region should be concerned with protecting the health of this corridor as it is critical to our future in everything from jobs to commercial tax base.
Early predictions are for at least a $1.2 billion overrun on Phase II of the Dulles Rail project.

About 75 percent of revenue for the project is the tolls on the Dulles Toll Road. Even with all of the cost shifting and cost savings currently being discussed under talks led by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, tolls are still projected to exceed $20 per round trip by 2020.

For some time now I have raised concern on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors that the major toll increases will have an adverse impact on the corridor. I am aware of at least three companies that have already chosen to locate outside the corridor because of the tolls. Businesses must compete for employees, and $20 a day is enough to make a difference when trying to attract them — especially entry-level employees.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s own toll road projections show a significant decrease in trips on the toll road as people flee the increased costs. That means they are either leaving the corridor permanently or are driving on already-congested side roads.

Rail is typically a driver of economic activity, and this promise of increased economic activity is a primary reason for the overwhelming support for rail in the corridor. But will the negative impact of these high tolls offset the gains from rail or, worse yet, have a detrimental impact on the corridor? What is the range of tolls that will keep and attract businesses and residents in the corridor? That is the question I unsuccessfully tried to get the Board of Supervisors to study at our April meeting.

Before we make major decisions regarding Phase II, we must understand and take into account the impact of the tolls on the future of Tysons Corner and the Dulles Corridor. Blindly proceeding with the project without understanding the impact of the tolls would be irresponsible.

Pat Herrity represents the Springfield District on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors

Comment:  It is not clear where Supervisor Herrity got the $21.50 cost for tolls in 2020.  Numbers we have heard and calculated for that time frame are between $10-$15.  Still, that's a five- to eight-fold increase in the current toll rate in 9 years.  His general point is well taken. 

Letter: Transit in Northern Virginia remains invisible, Fairfax Times, July 29, 2011

When I think of transportation, I think of moving people. Whether by car, train, bus, bike or other means, the bottom line in Northern Virginia is that we need choices if we are going to create capacity and save our roads. Unfortunately, the state is too interested in only building roads — even in controversial, more rural areas — and continues its well-known aversion to transit as a transportation solution.

Exhibit A: The Commonwealth Transportation Board has just approved allocating $197.4 million to a western bypass of U.S. Route 29 through Albemarle County, fully funding the project’s estimated costs. This is a project that has been controversial for more than 20 years and is nowhere near shovel-ready.

Here’s where the Route 29 bypass smacks Northern Virginia in the face. The much-discussed agreement that U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood crafted to break the impasse on the rail to Dulles project — the region’s priority transit project — included not a cent from the state but asks Fairfax County to shoulder a substantial amount of the costs. We spent $197.4 million in Albemarle County on a controversial road project, but the state can’t stomach spending $1 for Phase II of Dulles rail?

Exhibit B: Why is the state picking up the tab for 29 percent of the Interstate 495 Hot Lanes project to buy down toll rates, and ignoring the biggest transit project on the East Coast? It should use its money to buy down Dulles Toll Road rates or build the state Route 28 Metro station — the one it’s trying to hang around the neck of Fairfax County taxpayers. Rail to Dulles is critical to the continued economic growth of Northern Virginia — that would be the invisible Northern Virginia that continues to save the commonwealth’s economic bacon.

Northern Virginia, and Fairfax County as a whole, are being asked to assume an unfair share of costs because Virginia continues to make poor choices in how it allocates its transportation dollars. These are dollars that we need to spend in other priority areas of the county to deal with Base Realignment and Closure and other necessary transportation projects as the state’s neglect continues. Rail to Dulles will benefit the region and therefore the entire state. Continuing to ignore that is poor economic policy, poor public policy and just plain dumb.

If the state cares about transit, it’s time for the governor to pull up a chair and show us the money.

Jeff McKay represents the Lee District on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

This letter also appears in the Connection newspapers.  

Reston rail panel focuses gaze on traffic mitigation, Fairfax Times, July 29, 2011

As plans move forward on how best to tackle growth caused by Metrorail’s extension into Reston, a community ad hoc committee is discussing traffic mitigation.

On Tuesday, Reston Master Plan Special Task Force members heard from county traffic experts on possible options to stem highly congested intersections near the future Wiehle Avenue station. The county plans to revisit zoning in the Reston area in preparation for Metrorail’s arrival at Wiehle in late 2013. The task force is studying predicted residential and commercial density levels in an effort to make a land-use recommendation for the county.
Click here for the rest of this article.  It includes some details on proposed improvements at many intersections.  

County Planning Commission Recommends Approval For Fairway Application, Reston Patch, July 29, 2011

Decision moves forward the process to develop aging Reston complex. 

The Fairfax County Planning Commission on Thursday recommended approval for JBG's latest proposal for the redevelopment of Fairway Apartments.

Ultimately, the Reston Association's Design Review Board has final say on the design of the complex, but Thursday's vote moves forward the process, which has been going on for over a year.
Click here for the rest of this article. 

Northern VA Mayors and Chairs Protest Moody’s Action and the Federal Government’s Inaction, July 29, 2011

Statement from:
Northern Virginia does not have a debt problem, the federal government does.

The continued inaction and partisan bickering over the very high amount of debt the federal government is carrying and how to deal with it is putting at risk the credit ratings of our Northern Virginia localities.

For the first time, our local governments are facing the possibility of losing our Aaa credit rating from Moody’s Investor Service because of the federal government’s failure to deal with the ongoing debt crisis. This has reached crisis level and is impacting everyone in Northern Virginia, and we say enough is enough!

Moody’s decision to place our bond ratings on review for possible downgrade was made because of federal inaction, and in no way reflects the continuing strength and good fiscal management of our local communities. Yet any rating downgrade will increase the cost of borrowing for us all, forcing governments across Northern Virginia to reevaluate and perhaps curtail, capital spending. The ripple effect of this situation on our local budgets could threaten basic services, just as we are slowly emerging from the multi-year, cyclical economic downturn.

Nothing has changed in terms of our local financial and debt management practices and our continued strong fiscal management and low overall debt burdens bring stability to the region. Northern Virginia is a major component of the region’s economic success story, according to a recent study by George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis.

But the impact of this ongoing stalemate could be huge. As our transportation challenges grow and the facilities that house our firefighters, police and schoolchildren deteriorate, our plans to address these needs could be jeopardized. This crisis atmosphere raises serious concerns.

We fully understand the challenges involved in balancing revenue levels and funding essential services, since we accomplish this task every year in our localities. Our strong financial management practices have helped us manage through strong periods of growth as well as economic slowdowns while maintaining strong and stable financial profiles.

The time to act is now and we urge our leaders on Capitol Hill to set aside partisan differences, solve this ongoing crisis and come to a resolution of this problem for the good of us all.

Comment:  The fact of the matter is that a national debt downgrade will lead to higher interest rates for state and local borrowing in the months ahead.  This would raise the borrowing costs for Metrorail as well as the taxes and tolls that pay the Metrorail construction debt service. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Letter to Frank De La Fe, Hunter Mill Representative, Planning Commission, from Marion Stillson, July 26, 2011

Published here at Ms. Stillson's request.  

From: Marion Stillson <>
Date: Tue, Jul 26, 2011 at 8:51 PM
Subject: Fairways Apartments
To: Frank de la Fe <>
Cc: Catherine Hudgins <>

11286 Spyglass Cove Lane
 Reston, VA 20191
July 26, 20011

Dear Commissioner de la Fe/Frank,

As you may know, I have retired as president of RCA. Accordingly I’m writing this on behalf of myself alone.

I think Fairways Apartments is pivotal to the continuance of Reston as a planned community, for two reasons:

1.      The dire power of this bad example. If the proposal for Fairways is approved, the precedent will be set for all other privately-owned apartment complexes to be turned into upscale, dense, urban developments, regardless of location and the ‘as built’ environment.  We need increased density in Reston but it must be where density makes sense: near the metrorail stations and in Town Center. Allowing greater density on the basis of out-dated happenstance [zoning at high density], any old place, is the antithesis of planning.

Fairways Apartments needs to be refurbished and its accessibility improved. How this can be done without pricing moderate-income renters out, I don’t know.  A way must be found (Reston used to incubate innovation!) because of the principles at stake: housing of all types for all income levels and backgrounds.

2.      Possible litigation.  JBG’s general counsel attended the recent DRB hearing on Fairways and I think he was at the subsequent Planning Commission hearing, also. (I’m not certain it was he whom I saw sitting in the auditorium). If both the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors approve JBG’s proposal, only the DRB will stand in the way. JBG might sue and as a lawyer myself, I think the present legal climate favors them. The DRB has legal authority. If that legal authority is attenuated Reston will become less and less distinct from the rest of Fairfax County.
Please do not approve this re-development project.

Marion Stillson/Marion

PS Do you know why the Chairman of the Planning Commission attacked Barbara Byron verbally at the Fairways hearing? Is he, perhaps, opposed to the concept of PRC districts?  Or is he merely ill-informed about the historical significance of Reston?

cc Honorable Cathy Hudgins

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fairfax official says fed debt talks jeopardize Dulles Rail, Washington Examiner, July 26, 2011

By: Liz Essley | Examiner Staff Writer
Even as the Fairfax County Board approved a deal to divide the price tag for Dulles Rail on Tuesday, its chairman warned that the whole project could be in jeopardy if Congress and President Obama do not speed up their slow-moving debt talks.

The congressional talks to cut federal spending and raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2 could have a "domino effect" that would leading to the slashing of Fairfax County's bond rating and jeopardize the Metro extension to Washington Dulles International Airport, according to a draft of a Tuesday letter written by Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova to Congressman Jim Moran.

Fairfax board gives preliminary approval to rail funding plan, Fairfax Times, July 26, 2011

Metrorail extension currently estimated at $3.8 billion

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a new funding agreement for the second phase of the Metrorail extension to Dulles Airport. . .

. . . the motion the board approved has some caveats.
It authorizes County Executive Anthony Griffin to go into a more detailed negotiation process with staff of Loudoun County and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority starting this Friday with the goal of keeping the county's share of the project costs at essentially the same level that they are now -- what Griffin termed a "cost neutral" solution.
Click here for the rest of this article.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Notes on the RTF Steering Committee Meeting, July 19, 2011

                                       23 July 2011
                                       R. Rogers

     Summary: The Committee continued to discuss the DPZ proposal for a “test” framework for transportation analysis of the TOD areas.  Concern was evident, particularly from the development community, that the “test” proposal:
  • may become a permanent feature of the new master plan.
  • does not include development before 2030 outside the immediate station areas.
  • does not provide sufficient density, particularly at the Town Center station.

     Attendance: Fair. Eight members present. No one representing Wiehle sub-committee.  Also no Reston Association representative at the table; the RA alternate and RA president both were in the audience, but neither participated.  Notable in audience was Frank de la Fe as well as Goldie Harrison.

Patty Nicoson mentioned continuing Lahood silver line discussions (see 2020 blog for more recent Loudoun info).
     Patty Nicoson also mentioned recent Herndon Town Council discussions on consultant’s station development proposals. Still calling for 4.5 FAR along Dulles Toll Road near station tapering down to 3.5 and 1.5.  Mixed use envisioned. Consultants argued that increased infrastructure costs would be met by increased tax returns. Council asked Patty Nicoson for FC projections on Herndon-Monroe side, which she noted were far more modest. Mark Looney is obviously on top of all the details.
     Patti Nicsoson noted both RCA President Marion Stillson’s letter calling for greater structure for Task Force decision making and the recent 2020 memo on density and balance, but other than a statement that no decisions would be made at this meeting, there no discussion of either submission.

     Attorney Greg Riegle requested clarification of the process—when will anything get done?  Task force needs a schedule and deadline, in his view.
     Heidi Merkel said the hope is to get a final steering committee “test proposal” to the TF by mid-September so that it can then go to the transportation analysts.

     DPZ put forth a new map and tables (“Scenario E”) for transportation testing which again focused 2030 development in areas immediate to the stations. These are the “dark blue” areas (the new map and supporting tables are not yet on county website).  FARS, particularly for Town Center areas, remain lower than proposed by TC sub-com; even the Boston Properties site again goes back to 3.5.  
     The map triggered a long, rambling discussion before DPZ could even start its presentation that included several themes:
Confusion over whether this is a “test proposal” or one that will result in the final plan.  There were various descriptions of the SC’s discussions and activities by Heidi and others.  Robert Goudie gave several assurances that this is only a test and not the final version.  Since these explanations have not been reduced to writing nor formally adopted (the Steering Com. long ago discontinued preparing meeting summaries), this remains a potential concern for property owners and the public.
The development community is particularly troubled by the idea of leaving the “light blue areas” outside the immediate stations untouched in the near-term (in fact there was even some discussion about “down planning” some areas in the current plan).  Mark Looney and Greg Reigle both said that this was triggering growls from property owners in the light blue areas that their interests are being ignored.  Heidi again defended the DPZ approach saying it is designed to provide greater incentives for owners near the stations to come in first with re-development proposals.  Heidi also said the next version of the map would extend development to various “edge” areas. She also said that it might be possible for developers to transfer unused development from the dark plan station areas to the light blue outer areas.  
     John Carter said that there may be a need to put in certain essential uses in the light blue areas including residential and R&D facilities.
     Some SC members thought density in the TC area in particular needs to be increased.   Robert Goudie in particular argued for the case for E-5, Brookfield, which under the DPZ plan is assigned only a 1.5 FAR.  He said Brookfield will not redevelop its extensive parcel at this level.  He also said he stood by the TC sub-com’s extensive 5 FAR proposals. 
     This led to another discussion about transferring some of the proposed density from either Herndon Monroe or North Town Center to the TC area for testing purposes.  There was some discussion about confining any proposed increased density at Herndon-Monroe to area A-2 and leaving the immediate HM station and Sprint areas alone.  Others argued that some development in the HM station area be left in the test. John Carter asked if the substantial development being suggested for the Herndon Town side would be added to the test.  Heidi indicated that Herndon planning staff will be providing data for Fairfax County’s transportation analysis.
     There seemed to be some consensus on transferring 3 million sq. ft. of development from North Town Center (NTC) to the station area. Robert Goudie volunteered himself and Peter Otteni to work with Heidi to come up with some proposals for the SC on this.
     (Comment: In the revised Scenario E map, NTC is listed as 45% commercial, 40% residential and 15% “institutional.”   Since this area is now almost 100% “institutional” it leaves unclear if NTC would still be the civic heart of Reston.  This needs clarification.)
     2030 vs 2050: The conflicting time horizons also created confusion and uncertainty.  Some members such as Goudie talked of protecting the TC sub com proposals by including them as a 2050 vision in the final plan.
     Looney noted that some property owners are comparing this process unfavorably to the Tysons’ plan which apparently envisions a build out to 2050.  (NOTE:  The Tysons plan language provides specific guidance to 2030 and a vision—much like Reston’s sub-committees’—of development to 2050.)
     Comment: This meeting seemed more confused and disjointed than normal.  At least 5 committee members indicated this in various ways and this author certainly joins them.  Kohann Williams noted, that in view of the confusion, it may be difficult to have the transportation analysts discuss this “test” with the full Task Force and suggested that they come to the more focused SC instead.  Heidi responded that, in light of the SC’s mandate, she believed that the information should be presented to the full task force first, but that a subsequent meeting could be scheduled with the SC.)

DPZ Tables
     The discussion finally turned to the new DPZ tables explaining how the map allocates density in the station areas.  As usual, there was considerable confusion and not always clear explanations about what the figures represented and how they were determined.  Peter Otteni suggested going back to the GMU demand plus 20% residential figures as the “test” numbers.  He also noted concern that the numbers suggested for FC DOT analysis will be regarded as permanent.

Next Meeting
  Heidi indicated that FC DOT transportation analysts will come and have a general discussion with the whole TF on 26 July.  She noted that she had already given them the work of the Vision Committee about possible transportation improvements to chew on.
     She tentatively proposed that that the Steering Committee meet on 2 August. It was uncertain if the transportation people would be available to talk directly with the SC on that date or soon thereafter, and there were conflicts with SC vacation schedules.  Thus the schedule remains uncertain.  Watch the DPZ web site and Friday email updates.

Agenda: Reston Task Force Meeting, July 26, 2011

July 26, 2011
Task Force Meeting
Reston Community Center at Lake Anne


7:00 p.m.             Public Comment Period 

7:10 p.m.             Administrative Items – Patty Nicoson, Task Force Chair

7:20 p.m.             Update on Steering Sub-committee discussion
·         2050 Vision vs. 2030 Infrastructure: Concept of phasing
·         Allocation of Forecasted Absorption (GMU 2030 High forecast)

7:30 p.m.             Transportation Analysis Update and Mitigation Strategies Discussion
·         Brief review of prior analysis of existing conditions and TransPlan 2030 (used for Current Plan analysis)
·         Review of Mode Choice Model inputs
·         Transit Service
·         Discussion about desired Mitigation Strategies and Measures (including potential additional transit service (e.g. bus) and roadway improvements)

9:15 p.m.             Next full Task Force meeting
·         Next meeting:  September 13, 2011
·         Location:  RCC at Lake Anne

9:25 p.m.             Adjourn – Patty Nicoson

Letter: Don't let high density rule Phase 2. Kathy Kaplan, Reston Patch, July 21, 2011

When I pick my granddaughter up at Terraset Elementary School after school, there are many grandparents waiting for kids. That's a big change from the early 1980s when my daughter was a student at Sunrise Valley.   She tells me nobody she knew at her school had grandparents living in Reston. 

We have become a settled community with deep roots over the years since Reston was first created. Our founder, Bob Simon, has said recently that density equals community.  He is very eager for the changes that will bring additional people and development to Reston.   Right now Town Center and Dulles Corridor are being considered by the Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force for additional development.

But soon the county will turn its attention to the part of Reston called the PRC, the Planned Residential Community.  Then our neighborhoods and the shopping centers will be considered for additional density in Phase 2. 

The time to discuss this Phase 2 of the Task Force is now.  Our county supervisor, Cathy Hudgins, will run for election in the fall and right now, she runs unopposed.  Her re-election will give her a mandate to continue planning extraordinary changes to Reston.

Significant numbers of our neighborhoods will be considered by the Task Force for redevelopment in order to increase density and county revenues.

Reston Association Board President Kathleen Driscoll McKee stated in a letter to the Reston Patch that no one will have to sell out unless they choose to do so.  She was misinformed.  Only 75 percent of neighbors in a neighborhood have to agree to a buy-out by a developer.  (Editor's Note: Driscoll McKee explained the rules of this in her Reston Notebook column. Read it here).

Right now, 50 of our neighborhoods are zoned high-density.  However, many were built at medium density.  Because of the zoning a developer can offer to buy out the neighborhood and redevelop at the higher density "by right."

Should the Task Force recommend to the Board of Supervisors that the area zoned high density be increased over what it is now, many more than those 50 neighborhoods will be available for potential redevelopment.

The time to discuss the future of Reston is now, before the election.  It is not too late for an independent candidate to file to run for the Hunter Mill seat on the Board of Supervisors.  I hope that someone in Reston will have a different idea of what community is than Bob Simon.  I hope someone will run as an independent.

I believe the connections between people, families and friends are what constitute community.  I hope that my family will be able to continue living here until my great-grandchildren are also Restonians.  We have come to love this place.

I hope my family will not be driven out by the frenzy of residential redevelopment being contemplated by the county.   We need to have an open community forum about the buy-out of Reston's clusters by developers and the impact that will have on our town.  An election provides a prime opportunity to begin that discussion.

Kathy Kaplan
Reston, VA

Thursday, July 21, 2011

For Dulles Metro Project, The Fight Is Far From Over, WAMU 88.5, July 21, 2011

David Schultz

July 21, 2011 - After months of intense negotiations, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has dropped its plans to build an underground Metro Station at Dulles Airport. The move may have satisfied some local lawmakers, but negotiations on the project are far from over. . .
It seems that MWAA is in the middle of a fight between Va. Gov. McDonnell and unions over the planned PLA agreement to build Phase 2 of the Dulles Metrorail.  McDonnell won't give more money because a PLA would violate Va.'s right-to-work law, and unions aren't about to give in.

Read the rest and hear a report from David Schultz by clicking here. 

Fairfax Planning Commission Postpones Fairway Decision Until July 28, Reston Patch, July 21, 2011

County reviewing JBG's proposal for redevelopment of Reston apartments.

By Karen Goff 

The Fairfax County Planning Commission, scheduled to make a decision Wednesday about a redevelopment plan for Reston's Fairway Apartments, deferred the decision until July 28.....
Click here for the rest of the article.  Still no sign of why this decision was delayed another week.  Will update if information comes to light.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sense of the Farifax County Board on Dulles Rail, July 20, 2011

Sense of the Fairfax County Board on Dulles Rail

July 20, 2010
Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova has released a statement regarding the Dulles Rail Project. The full text is below:

Following a presentation by FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff on a proposal for modifications to costs and cost-sharing arrangements for the Dulles Rail Project, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors held a discussion of the proposal.  The Board did not take any action on the proposal.  I believe, however, that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors can be supportive of the proposal as outlined by Mr. Rogoff on behalf of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood with some modifications as outlined below. 

The following is my sense of the reaction by the Board to various elements of the proposal.  These reactions should not be interpreted as a final position by the Board, but simply as the Chairman’s sense of issues, questions, and suggestions expressed by the Board in reaction to a significant proposal of great import to and impact on the County.  All points remain open for discussion and negotiation until final action is obtained.

Comments Specific to the Proposed Additional Costs to Fairfax

  • The Board members seem to accept County staff’s assessment that assuming the cost of the garages is workable and could be included in the final structure of a new cost allocation arrangement.
  • The Board members welcomed the offer of TIFIA assistance, but expect that assistance to be substantial (up to one-third of all Fairfax costs for Phase 1 and 2) and applicable to any of the Project components funded by Fairfax; 
    • Only Fairfax County is being asked to assume the full cost of a station (Route 28 Station).  Board members find this to be problematic.  It should be recognized that the Route 28 Station will service both Fairfax and Loudoun Counties.  The station pavilion on the north side will include an entrance pavilion, Kiss and Ride, and a bus transfer station that will allow Loudoun and Fairfax transit connections to the station.   Furthermore, this north side entrance pavilion will connect with land owned by the State (Center for Innovative Technology) and will provide the State with significant development opportunities. Accordingly, the Board prefers that a State or Federal grant be put toward the cost of that station and that the station remain funded through the Project.

General Principles

  • The Board supports the principle of shared sacrifice, but is concerned that the proposed cost shifting impacts Fairfax and Loudoun Counties the greatest rather than spreading the impact in a more balanced manner among all of the funding partners. 
  • Under the proposal presented to the Board on July 12th, the State was not asked to contribute additional funds to provide relief to toll road users.  I understand that there is now a State contribution of $150 million, which is a positive addition to the proposal.  The MWAA financial contribution to Phase 2, however, is expected to actually decrease, while Fairfax County and Loudoun County are being asked to take on additional project costs above their original shares. 
    • This is not consistent with shared sacrifice and the State and MWAA should commit to additional funding.
  • Fairfax’s participation should be just one element of a plan requiring participation by all parties with a substantial monetary contribution to the project costs (Federal, State, Loudoun, Fairfax and MWAA);
  • All parties must have a much better understanding of the impact of Project construction costs on projected toll rates to evaluate the true effect of the proposed changes. The current presentations are contradictory and it is not clear whether shifting the cost burden and the savings from value engineering will actually result in significantly lower tolls;
  • Board members want MWAA to accept the aerial alignment for the airport station or agree to fund the difference from non-toll road sources of revenue to keep the Project affordable.       
  • The Board appreciates USDOT's involvement in Phase 2 and would like FTA to continue an oversight role on Phase 2.

Other Comments

  • In addition to direct aid by the State to mitigate the impact on toll rate payers, the Board would like the State to consider some form of credit support directly to the toll road financing as the most cost-effective form of aid that will directly benefit toll road users and help keep toll rates at an acceptable level. 
  • Rail to Dulles is Fairfax County’s number one transportation priority and the Board remains committed to completing the Project in a timely and cost-effective manner.  The Board also is committed to working with our partners to address financial and Project related issues

Route 28 Station Background Notes

  • Per the proposal, only Fairfax County is being asked to assume all responsibility for an entire station (Route 28 Station). However:
    • This station will serve Fairfax County, Loudoun County, the Town of Herndon, and the State’s Center for Innovative Technology and surrounding State-owned property.  Accordingly, the station should remain in the Project as a shared funding responsibility.
    • The commitment of surrounding properties in the Phase II District to provide tax revenue for the Project explicitly includes construction of this station.
    • The land areas surrounding this station have two special tax districts to fund transportation improvements. The Route 28 Tax District and the Phase 2 Tax District fund transportation improvements necessary in this corridor for airport related development. With the lack of public funds to provide for all the necessary transportation improvements and capacity limitations on the planned and existing road networks, this station will provide a significant benefit not just to Fairfax County but to Dulles Airport and the entire region.
    •  A failure to construct this station would have significant adverse impacts on other stations in the Project as vehicles, buses, parking requirements, and Metro riders shift to those other stations.
    • Ridership projections used during the EIS for the Route 28 Station were based on a transportation model (MWCOG round 6.3 round) that did not reflect changes to the County’s Comprehensive Plan, a fact recognized in the EIS itself.  The plan changes include high-intensity development at the Dulles Suburban Center in the Route 28 area.  Therefore, the ridership projections certainly would be much higher if the model was to be updated to reflect actual land use changes that already have been implemented. 

MWAA Votes in Favor of LaHood's Dulles Rail Plan, Reston Patch, July 20, 2011

Proposal includes cheaper above-ground airport station plan. 
By Karen Goff
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board has reversed course on its plans for an underground station at Dulles International Airport, voting 11-1 Wednesday to accept a proposed plan - featuring the cheaper ariel station - from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. . . .
Click here for the rest of the article.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Press Release: Loudoun Board Moves to Accept Compromise Proposal on Dulles Rail with Conditions, July 19, 2011

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to accept the mediated proposal of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, with certain modifications, to resolve issues surrounding the Metrorail expansion to Dulles Airport. The Board voted to accept the compromise proposal with the following conditions:
  • Loudoun will make a reasonable and best effort to assemble a financial option for the three parking garages in Loudoun County, thereby taking the cost of the garages out of the project.
  • This reduced project scope is contingent upon either a private sector partner and/or the Commonwealth guaranteeing and backing the cost of the parking garages or other alternative financing options that require no local tax funding support, as well as the realization of funding through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA).  If Loudoun is successful in these efforts, the costs will be removed from the project. If not, they remain a project cost shared by all parties.
  • The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) accepts the amended compromise proposal, including the above-ground station; and that Fairfax County and the Commonwealth of Virginia accept the amended compromise proposal.
  • MWAA donates the land for the parking garage at the Route 606 station.
  • The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) considers reducing their standards for parking garages at Metro stations and considers alternate parking fees for the garages in Loudoun County.
The Board also re-affirmed its earlier rejection of the offer by MWAA to maintain an underground station by financing the differential for only Loudoun and Fairfax Counties, but not reducing the burden on Dulles Toll Road users. Also, the Board made it clear that Loudoun County still has the 90-day window to “opt-out” of the project, if desired, once the milestone known as 100% Preliminary Engineering is reached. 

Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott K. York says he will relay the Board’s position to Secretary LaHood and the other funding partners at the next meeting on Wednesday, July 20, 2011.

Reston TOD Traffic & Profit Comparisons between DPZ & Reston 2020 Plans, Fred Costello, July 18, 2011

Reston Task Force member Fred Costello has analyzed the traffic and profitability impacts of the County's and Reston 2020's TOD development proposals as reflected in RCA Reston 2020's "Reston TOD Planning:  More Balance, Less Density Needed."   He concludes:
  • Reston 2020's proposal for a strong emphasis on residential development in Reston's TOD areas offers nearly the same economic return as the County's non-residential centric proposal does--14% vs. 16%.
  • Reston 2020's proposal results in one-eighth the additional traffic that the County proposal would create if implemented--1.11 more than current traffic under the Reston 2020 proposal and 1.80 more traffic under the county's proposal.
058 Reston TOD Traffic and Profit Comparisons Between the DPZ and Reston 2020 Plans

Editorial: Dulles rail’s moment of truth, Washington Post, July 17, 2011

NEARLY EVERY stakeholder in Metro’s Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport has seen the light when it comes to a cost-cutting package that would rescue the project from implosion. Oddly, the lone holdouts appear to be a few members on the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board, which runs Dulles and Reagan National airports and which is also building the Metro line — even though they stand to lose the most from the project’s collapse. Unless board members come to the right decision in the coming days, the failure of Dulles rail will be on their shoulders.

The way forward is to scrap extraneous expenses — first and foremost, an underground station at Dulles . . .
Click here for the rest of the editorial.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Reston TOD Planning: More Balance, Less Density Needed, RCA Reston 2020 COmmittee, July 18, 2011

Below is the latest RCA Reston 2020 paper  that offers Reston 2020's proposal for advancing a better balance of residents and non-residents  in Reston's TOD areas based on two decades of research that shows  such a balance leads to high-performing transit-oriented development areas. 

Reston TOD Planning More Balance Less Density Final 071811

Commentary: On RTF's lack of progress, Reston Patch, John Lovaas, July 17, 2011

In his latest Reston Patch commentary, John Lovaas takes aim at the lack of progress in the Reston Task Force's work. 
The Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force, the RMPSSTF to its really close friends, is a gang of 25 appointed by Hunter Mill District Supervisor Catherine Hudgins.

Most urgent, Hudgins rightly told her charges, was Phase One—planning for the three train stations-to-be currently zoned industrial. Phase One was to be complete and approved by the Fairfax Board of Lords by Summer 2010.  Phase Two, the other 6,000 acres of Reston, was to be done by the end of 2010.  You know, before the redevelopment gang levels it “by right."

The Task Force moniker alone, RMPSSTF, should have tipped us that timeliness was not to be the modus operandi of the developer-dominated group.

Sure enough,  here we are in the second half of 2011 and the conclusion of Phase One is not even in sight. . . .
For the rest of his commentary, click here.  

Saturday, July 16, 2011

WaPo's Dr. Gridlock discusses the $1.7B Tysons transportation proposal, and we add some more

In a post on the Dr. Gridlock blog titled "Fairfax to consider $1.7 billion in Tysons Corner road and transit upgrades,"  Kafia A. Hosh writes:
Remaking traffic-choked Tysons Corner into a city isn’t going to be cheap. It will take an estimated $1.7 billion over the next 20 years to build an urban street grid, widen major roads and enhance bus service.

So how does Fairfax County foot the bill? By splitting the cost between the public and the private sector. County staff is suggesting that the public fund $991 million in improvements, and that Tysons landowners pay $706 million.
The McLean Citizens Association (MCA) expressed its dissatisfaction with the proposed funding formulation:
At the meeting, the McLean Citizens Association advocated for a funding split that is used to pay for road improvements in the Route 28 corridor. That method allocates 75 percent of the cost to the landowners in exchange for more density, and 25 percent to taxpayers. 
But in Tysons, the proposed funding split “puts the majority of the risk on taxpayers,” said Rob Jackson, president of the association. “The public needs to be protected against tax increases.”
The Reston Citizens Association (RCA) Board of Directors backed MCA's position in a resolution endorsing the MCA's position in March 2011 as posted in this blog and shared with the Fairfax Board of Supervisors.  When BOS Chairman Bulova responded by noting that the Tysons landowners have agreed to pay for the stations there ($300 million), RCA Board member Terry Maynard noted the following in his personal response to Chairman Bulova:

. . . your comments ignore the essence of the RCA resolution argument that, aside from the huge profit potential afforded Tysons landowners and developers through redevelopment, they can share their added tax burden with their tenants while additions to personal property or other county-wide taxes will fall on households that cannot share those costs with others.  Such taxes will erode household disposable income while providing no discernible household benefit. . . As stated in the RCA resolution, those who stand to profit from infrastructure investments in Tysons, that is, Tysons landowners and tenants, ought to be the ones who absorb the bulk of the costs of creating the conditions for that economic opportunity, not those of us in the rest of the county.   

The key point of the RCA and MCA resolutions’ argument is, I believe, that it is essentially unfair for a few Tysons landowners and businesses to make huge profits at the expense of the county’s citizens.