Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Commentary: Dulles Rail Phase II: A Common Sense Approach, Pat Herrity, Connection Newspapers, February 3, 2012

This spring the Fairfax and Loudoun County Board of Supervisors will be required to make a final decision to opt in or out of Phase II of the Dulles Rail project. Rail through Tysons past the airport and into Loudoun is the largest public works project in the history of the Commonwealth and it has significant financial implications to the counties, its residents and businesses, and especially to the users of the Dulles Toll Road. As the Dulles corridor and Tysons are the economic engines of the region and the Commonwealth the project also has telling implications on our future job growth.

Dulles Rail enjoys overwhelming support among residents of both counties for its perceived transportation benefits. What many fail to realize is that Phase II falls short as a transportation project. For example Federal Transportation Administration administrator Peter Rogoff clearly told the Board of Supervisors the project fails to meet even President Obama's liberalized cost benefit standards for new transit projects. This is why the federal government is not able to contribute to the cost of Phase II.
The project will only increase the transit ridership mode split in the corridor by approximately 3 percent-5 percent in 2025.
Because there are no express routes and over 14 stops, the trip from Dulles Airport to the Potomac River on a completed Silver Line is projected to take over one hour (average speed less than 25 MPH) — longer if they fail to figure out the current congestion at the Rosslyn crossing. There is no time advantage over the car or express bus.
According to the project's projections, the Dulles airport station will only generate about 10 percent of the traffic on the Silver line, the majority being airport employees, not travelers, and handle less than 15 percent of the airport's total traffic.
That said, the project has the potential to be a huge economic boom to the corridor and Fairfax County; at least it did until the cost went up along with the projected tolls on the Dulles Toll Road that will finance 75 percent of the project. The new projections of the tolls necessary to finance the debt have not been released. Even with federal TIFIA financing that pushes the first debt payments out 10 years, it is a good bet that the tolls will exceed $8 each way by 2020 excluding the Greenway. . . .
For the rest of this excellent overview of the need for a better financing plan for Metrorail, please click here.  

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