Open letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood:
As members of the Board of the Reston Citizens Association and its community planning committee, Reston 2020, we have followed your efforts to make the Metrorail Silver Line succeed with great interest.
Your efforts and those of FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff last year were helpful in shifting some of the official “project“ costs to local governments.
And your effort this week — to end the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority‘s intransigent stance on project labor agreements and encourage Loudoun’s continued participation — is appreciated.
Yet these efforts barely touch on the most critical issue of the construction of Phase 2: Three-quarters of the cost of the rail line’s second phase construction will be borne by the 100,000 or so users of the Dulles Toll Road, many of them Reston residents.
The result will be that toll road users will end up paying more than half of the nearly $6 billion total cost of the Silver Line. These percentages change little by eliminating MWAA’s PLA provision and garnering recently proposed levels of Virginia aid even without the PLA provision.
It has not helped that FHWA recently rejected MWAA’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act application, and no other new federal aid to the project has been forthcoming.
According to MWAA’s traffic and revenue forecaster, CDM Smith, toll road users will be forced to pay $17 billion or more by 2050, predominantly to cover MWAA’s revenue bond financing costs at near junk-level interest rates and operating expenses. Others have said these costs will be much higher because of substantial cost omissions in MWAA’s calculations, including capital re-investment.
To achieve the current official revenue requirement, CDM Smith forecasts the current full one-way toll of $2.25 will need to double next year, triple by 2018, and continue spiraling upward to $18.75 in 2048.
The unintended consequences of proceeding with this financial arrangement for Restonians and residents of other communities along the Dulles Corridor are potentially devastating.
źEven allowing for 2.5 percent inflation during the next 40 years, the real toll (2012 dollars) leaps to more than $7 by 2028, where it remains through mid-century.
źA regular commuter who now pays less than $1,000 per year in tolls will see that cost rise to more than $8,000 per year in 2048, or more than $3,000 per year by 2028 in today’s dollars.
źAssuming Fairfax income and inflation growth follows the path of the past two decades, nearly half (48 percent) of any gains in household disposable income for regular toll road users will go to feeding the MWAA toll machine during the next four decades.
That’s money that will not go into growing the local economy. That will likely discourage people from taking jobs or moving to the Dulles Corridor.
źAvailable information —starting with the CDM Smith traffic forecast — indicates the skyrocketing tolls will force 30,000 vehicles per day or more on to local roads beginning as early as next year. That is before counting increased corridor population and jobs. That is added traffic on already congested local roads that have been underfunded by the Virginia legislature for years.
źAlthough Reston 2020 can not quantify its impact precisely, we believe implementation of the current financing plan for Phase 2 will undermine — and possibly reverse — the economic growth along the Dulles Corridor that Metrorail is meant to stimulate. Even the commercial real estate firm that is advising Loudoun County notes there is no evidence new commuter rail lines stimulate overall economic growth; they only shift it to the area around the stations. The issue is all the more serious in light of forthcoming federal spending cuts.
In short, the current financing arrangement will cause substantial economic harm to families who must use the toll road, especially for commuting, and will erode the economic growth the rail line is supposed to generate.
To say this funding arrangement, agreed to by MWAA, Loudoun and Fairfax county officials, is unfair, inequitable, and potentially counter-productive is a gross understatement. Moreover, the deal was cut without public meetings or hearings by any of the participants — just another backroom political deal that outrages citizens.
Its re-affirmation by the Fairfax Board of Supervisors last month ignored citizens’ concerns, and demonstrated its failure to look at the broad ramifications of the deal. Only Loudoun County is reaching out seriously for public input on the Silver Line as it moves forward diligently in its deliberations.
RCA and Reston 2020 have long been advocates of “Rail to Dulles” as a key driver in our beautiful planned community’s growth. We continue to believe toll road revenues ought to pay for a quarter of the cost of the Silver Line as detailed in the 2004 FEIS, despite the tripling of cost estimates since then.
The vital point is toll road users — with a 75 percent stake in Phase 2 costs — are the most critical stakeholders in the future of the Silver Line’s construction, but they continue to be excluded from the table. Unless people who represent toll road users are included, a reasonable, fair and equitable solution to the Silver Line’s funding problem is unlikely.
In Fairfax County, I think representatives from the McLean Citizens Association, Reston Citizens Association, and the Herndon Town Council — organizations that represent those most affected by the forecast toll increases — ought to be included in your deliberations. We do not believe we can count on the Fairfax County Board to represent our concerns.
We appreciate your taking the time to consider these issues and ideas. From our perspective, the future of equitable and fair cost sharing as well as completion of the Silver Line is in your hands. We wish you every success in moving forward. If you think we can be of assistance, please do not hesitate to ask.
Terrill D. Maynard , Reston Citizens Association Board of Directors and RCA Reston 2020 Committee