Reston Spring

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Monday, April 30, 2012

Some Doubt Phase 2 Will Ever Be Built, Reston Patch, April 30, 2012

Washington Post outlines how money, politics and labor agreement may doom second part of Rail to Dulles.

With a meeting between stakeholders in Rail to Dulles and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood coming up on Wednesday,  The Washington Post takes a look at just how far off the tracks Phase 2 of the project has become.
Here are some key comments from Dana Hedgpeth's Washington Post article:
 After more than 10 years of planning to add 23 miles of Metro rail line in Northern Virginia, the second part of the Silver Line project could be dead before a spade of dirt is turned.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Virginia, and Loudoun and Fairfax counties are at a stalemate over pro-union labor deals, concerns about costs and an inspector general’s investigation of the authority.
“This project will die if the stakeholders cannot get together and resolve their differences,” said Leo J. Schefer, head of the Washington Airports Task Force, a group of business leaders that supports the Silver Line.
If the project ever does start, it won’t start on time.
. . .  The biggest problem, according to Schefer and others: chest-thumping and good, old-fashioned politics.
“Underlying all of this is party political extremes that are being put ahead of public purpose,” Schefer said.
Politics have been a huge part of the issue in recent years, but underlying the political posturing of both parties is the fact that the Silver Line project has tripled in cost since the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was published in 2004.  As the costs were skyrocketing, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) pulled the plug on federal funding--planned at half the total cost of the line--in 2008 when it determined the project was not cost-effective.  At that point, then Governor Kaine and other elected officials intervened to get a $900 million downpayment on the line, and so it began. 

The key difference is that Dulles Toll Road users must now pay what the federal government won't in addition to the 25%--a more than generous share in our estimation--it was booked to pay in the FEIS.  That means toll road users are stuck paying 75% of the cost of Phase 2 of the line, especially if neither the federal, state, nor local governments nor MWAA (whom the rail is intended to serve) will agree to contribute to the construction and financing costs. 

Reston 2020 neither wants toll road users to be stuck with three-quarters of the bill nor a Metrorail line that ends at Wiehle station in Reston.  It has offered a number of alternative financing ideas for Phase 2 and encourages its prompt construction as soon as those alternatives are in place.  We all need rail to Dulles and we need those who will benefit most to carry the load.

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