The cost of Metrorail’s extension into Loudoun County in relation to the payoff are minuscule, and no one is making a defensible argument for the benefit not being there, Dr. Stephen Fuller, director of George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis, said in an interview Monday.
Fuller, an economist and author of more than 500 articles, papers and reports in the field of urban and regional economic development, released “The Impact of Metrorail on Loudoun County’s Economic Future,” a 14-page report that concludes the county will miss out on $25.6 billion in gross product by 2040 if Metrorail service isn’t extended to the Dulles Airport, Route 772 and Route 606.
“The opportunity cost of not extending Metrorail into Loudoun County can be measured in billions of dollars not earned, a perpetually weaker economic base, lower salaries and higher tax burdens for Loudoun County residents,” Fuller states in his report.
Phase 2 of the Metrorail Silver Line extension should be a “no-brainer,” Fuller said during the interview.
As federal spending lessens in the decades ahead, there has to be a substitute for the health and vitality of the region; Washington is in a unique position to become a global economic center, similar to London and Tokyo, he said.
Strengthening Loudoun’s regional connectivity to that economic hub guarantees a more diverse tax base and an export-based economy — one that will fatten budgets for local schools and services without necessarily increasing the services and social needs of families.
With Metro, the county’s gross product will rise from $21.2 billion in 2012 to $51 billion in 2020. By 2040, that figure rises to $230.4 billion. Without rail, the county’s gross product falls at $47.8 billion in 2020 and $204.8 billion in 2040.
“Loudoun County is at an economic cross roads,” Fuller writes in his report. “The long-term economic difference is significant between (1) an economy built on a platform of high value added, high growth professional and business services and management occupations that are attracted to high-quality, high-density, mixed-use, multi-modal employment centers and require regional connectivity or (2) an economy that is dominated by the residential serving commercial business activities and airport-oriented and transportation-related services.”
Loudoun’s Board of Supervisors has until July 4 to decide whether they’ll remain in a funding agreement with Fairfax County, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and the commonwealth of Virginia.
During a Metrorail work session last week, two supervisors, Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) and Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run), made fervent pitches for Metrorail.
“If we truly support— truly support — this county to develop economically, we have to have the [Metrorail] system to support the people to move in and out … We are a growing community in Northern Virginia. We are still continuing to grow, and will grow, and will grow,” York said.
Williams agreed, saying, “If we really believe in trying to expand our commercial tax base and getting economic development, I don’t see how we can not support rail. We can either move the county forward, or we can move it backwards. By not supporting this project, Rail to Loudoun, we will be moving it backwards.”
Fuller will discuss his report Wednesday during a Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Dulles Airport Marriot. He’ll be joined by Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton and Chris Browne, manager of the Dulles Airport.
Additional highlights of the report conclude:
źIn 2010, Northern Virginia had an about 45 percent share of the Washington economy, compared with suburban Maryland’s 32 percent and the District of Columbia’s 23 percent.
źLoudoun County’s population and related economic growth have been linked directly to: (1) its location adjacent to Fairfax County with its dynamic economy and growing demand for workers to fill its knowledge-based and technology intensive jobs and (2) the economic activity and potentials generated by Dulles International Airport on the County’s eastern border with Fairfax County
These locational assets have enabled Loudoun County’s economy to transform from rural and diversified status faster than any other jurisdiction in the Washington Metropolitan area.
źThe true cost of not extending Metrorail service into Loudoun County is seen in an economy that will be 9.7 percent smaller by 2030. The collateral consequences of this smaller and slower growing economy on Loudoun County and its residents will be seen in a less diverse economy with a lower wage structure and a local tax base that is more dependent on residential land uses and less dependent on commercial land uses for its tax revenues.