Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Monday, March 19, 2012

Prepared Statement for the Dulles Metrorail Project Public Hearing, Reston 2020 Committee, March 20, 2012

Prepared Statement of
Terrill D. Maynard, Reston 2020 Committee
For the Fairfax County Public Hearing
On The Dulles Metrorail Project
March 20, 2012

Good evening honorable ladies and gentlemen of the Board, I am here this evening to speak on behalf of the Reston 2020 Committee, a committee comprising more than five dozen Restonians who seek to preserve and improve the quality of life in the Reston community.  In pursuing that goal, we are enthusiastic about planning for well-reasoned economic growth in the Reston area, including the arrival of Metrorail and complementary well-balanced TOD development in its station areas.  

We believe, however, that the current plan to force Dulles Toll Road users to pay three-quarters of the cost of Phase 2 of Metrorail construction and 55 percent of the overall costs of the line’s construction is grossly unfair to a small group of Reston and Fairfax County residents and workers.   That includes the 20-25,000 trips by Restonians out of the roughly 140-160,000 toll road trips that begin or end in the county each day. 

In brief, your implementation of the current tripartite funding agreement means that Restonians and other county residents will end up paying about half of the $15 billion in MWAA Metrorail debt service obligations over four decades.   That $7-8 billion cost comes from hard earned household incomes.  It does not improve the driving experience of toll road users, represents a significant claim on their disposable income, and results in a significant loss in tax generating sales for the county and state. 

At the household level, regular toll road users will see their annual toll road costs rise from less than $1,000 now to more than $8,000 by 2048.  On a constant dollar basis, toll costs will still nearly quadruple.  In the end, every penny put in the toll basket is a penny that siphons the wealth of Fairfax residents with no benefit to them.  It will also have a depressing effect on property values outside station areas since part of the added cost of tolls is money diverted from mortgages and rents paid by County residents.  It will also reduce local retail sales opportunities for businesses beyond the Metro station areas as nearby residents have less to spend.  Moreover, the state and county will lose sales tax revenues as toll revenues are pumped into MWAA bondholders’ hands. 

More disconcerting to Reston 2020 is the fact that the County has not made an independent effort to evaluate the consequences of these tremendous toll increases on County residents and coffers.  Besides the effects we identify above, we suspect that such an evaluation would show:
  • Large traffic diversion effects over the long term as tolls skyrocket and population and employment grows with no offsetting revenue sources to at least maintain County traffic standards.
  • Little increase in the percentage usage of public transit as former bus transit riders dominate Metrorail use.  In part, Metrorail use will be constrained by passenger capacity shortfalls and slow service to downtown.
  • Decreased demand for Dulles corridor area office and home real estate outside station areas as potential buyers see they can save thousands of dollars in commuting costs by buying elsewhere. 
  • Residential development near Metrorail stations dominated by high-end housing as property values there rise.  The resulting million dollar-plus condos will further undercut stated County policy to provide added workforce housing.
The fact that the County has not studied the county-wide systemic implications of its Metrorail funding agreement before or after it reached the tripartite agreement is a failure of due diligence and a tremendous dis-service to County residents and businesses.  Until the County understands the full implications of its decision, it needs to postpone its approval of Phase 2 financing.  Not to do so would mean a failure to protect the interests of its current and future residents and businesses while benefitting a handful of developers near Metrorail stations. 

We believe that toll road users should pay no more than 25 percent of the total cost of the Silver Line as envisioned in the 2004 Federal Environmental Impact Statement.  Instead of quintupling tolls in the next 20 years, tolls might double and, in real terms, increase by a quarter or so.  That is a reasonable way to stimulate transit use and not seriously impede household wellbeing or county economic growth. 

We request the Board put the current tripartite “funding partners” agreement on hold until sufficient alternative funding for the Silver Line can be found.  To do otherwise is imprudent, impractical, and unjust. 

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