Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project Presentation Comments, March 19
Last update: March 22, 2 p.m.
Dulles Rail, Phase 2 and Silver Line station name comments, questions, and answers from the public meeting presentation.
FCDOT – Fairfax County Department of Transportation
FTA – Federal Transit Administration
MWAA – Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority
USDOT – United States Department of Transportation
VDOT – Virginia Department of Transportation
WMATA – Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
Fairfax County Government Center
March 19, 2012
I have been frustrated with the idea that high tolls mean we should build the rail line on the cheap. I wish people would keep in mind that if the rail line attracts more passengers, the authority will be able to buy down the tolls faster* If people don't want to pay for Phase 2, than we should just wait to build it until the money is available to build it right. *The rail line won't attract more passengers if they have to walk the length of two football fields to get to the station. I don't understand how Gov. McDonnell can go on national television and talk about "infrastructure development creates jobs", then turn around and be so miserly towards the Commonwealth's largest airport. How can he claim to be "pro-business" when he won't support a project that would entice international airlines to our area? I think McDonnell's strategy is to neglect Dulles Rail because he thinks if there is no state-level money, the Toll Road users will pay for it anyways; and he can spend tax dollars on projects that would otherwise not be built. I would like the Fairfax County Board to encourage the Authority to wait to build Phase 2 until we get a Governor in office who has some vision.
Representing the labor union to maintain the labor relationship. We have stability-families and kids. If it doesn't go union, it will impact families. There is a lot of concern from families-doesn't know if the second phase will be union or not. We want to make sure that we continue to build bridges and the benefits they have. We can support families on union wages. Don't put our families at risk to save money. We don't want to be the ones to suffer at the end.
Dulles Rail is vital to the future of Fairfax and Loudoun counties. It will save long term far more than it will cost. For example, Metrorail in 2010 needed only 18 cents per passenger mile operating subsidy but Metrobus needed $1.12, six times as much as per passenger mile. Fairfax Connector needed 65 cents per passenger mile operating subsidy, 3 ½ times more subsidy than Metrorail. Also, Fairfax voters and taxpayers consume only 388 gallons of gasoline per capita per year, but the nation average is 580 gallons. Metrorail brings Transit Oriented Development that is saving Northern Virginia 250 million gallons of motor fuel a year worth $1 billion a year as of today's prices. It will pay for Phase II Dulles in six years. Sell bonds. Limit toll increases to the rates on the Greenway and Maryland 200, the Intercounty Connector. Route 267 and I-66 cannot cope with the future and have big trouble with the present. Dulles Phase II is very essential. My property rate rose 375% from before Metrorail to Vienna until now in a recession. Inflation may have been 200% but Dulles Rail was 175%.
Note: Some questions and answers were summarized for better understanding of the discussion.
Q – What is the ramification of not building of Phase 2?
A – A funding agreement does allow for a partner to opt out during the 90 day review period once they have received the 100% preliminary engineering and cost estimate. If that happens we would have to go back to the drawing board. The agreements in place assume that all the funding partners stay in the project, if any drops then we would have to renegotiate the funding agreement and project cost shares, update the environmental documentation, and the preliminary engineering would also have to be revised.
Q – How are you going to choose the Silver Line station names from 14,000?
A – We are going to look at the top names; do they meet the WMATA criteria? Are the names unique and non-repetitive? We can pull ZIP code data to see who is selecting what names and where they live. Each station name needs to be unique to the area.
Q – MWAA’s percentage is 4.1%. What happens if the rail line succeeds? Will they determine that they will drop the price of the tolls?
A – Once the line goes operational, WMATA will own and operate the system and collect the revenue. The revenue WMATA will collect goes to the operations, maintenance, and capital replacement cost of the Metrorail system. MWAA gets no benefit.
Q – Before the toll road increases are finally voted on, as a citizen, I object to the toll road users being the cash cow. The tolls should be used for the maintenance of the toll road. The 55% is terribly unreasonable, and rises and rises. What would be the best way for a citizen to make our views known and object?
A – Fairfax County does not own the Toll Road or set the rates. You can speak at the public hearing we have planned with the Board on March 20th. Also MWAA will be holding public meetings on the toll rates and I would recommend you attend those meetings and state your concerns.
Q – I want to thank you for briefing us. FCDOT staff has been very open about this project. Even though we disagree, you’ve been candid about the answers. The funding gap, worst case scenario, is that with the garages going into the project? In terms of what else could be funded, is that a drop in the bucket? Assuming that the board approves the project, can we discuss the ramification of a ‘no’ vote.
A – The $235M is the worst case scenario. $170M (is the gap in funding between the Tax District funds and what the County is responsible for in the project) is a significant sum in Fairfax County. This project can relieve a lot of congestion. If we went with a bus system, those buses would use the same congested road the vehicles use and might not be as an effective solution as transit. The funding agreement does allow the partners to opt out but if one does, it sends everyone back for renegotiation to include the percentages the partners would pay.
Q – If Loudoun County opts out, can Fairfax County reconsider its vote?
A – It would require everyone to restart and renegotiate. The project may still go forward but we would have some challenges for example…..How do we reconfigure Wiehle Avenue to be the end of the line? The tax districts, contributions, etc... would change. You can’t just cut off the Loudoun stations. You have to redo the PE, environmental documents. It would be a dramatic shift.
Q – In the history of the project, when it appeared that the Toll Road would be a substantial funder, what other options were looked at besides the tolls? The old law used to say $25 per passenger, inclusive. The law has since changed to include other factors. I haven’t seen anyone applying that in the project.
A – The original assumptions were 50% federal, 25% state and 25% local partnership. The local is the only one that exists. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit (DRPT) put up their 25%, when they owned the toll road. In 2003-2004, the feds announced it would have to be two projects to consider funding. By dividing it into phases, there were no guarantees for funding Phase 2. By itself, Phase 2 has a difficult time meeting FTA requirements. We are looking at other federal grants. They did provide us with TIFIA assistance—enough to cover $400-500M in low cost loans. Both of Fairfax and Loudoun can apply for TIFIA assistance if they take on the garages. It can help bring down some of the pressure of the loans.
Q – When new tolls are instituted, they aren’t coming down.
A – Toll revenue is to pay the debt service on the toll road’s bonds. The bonds are set up to have the principle paid at the end. By deferring borrowing the $150M, they can smooth out their debt schedule. It’s a complicated financing setup—it all depends on the cash flow. The higher they go, the lower the transactions go.
Q – Who is representing toll road users? If the tolls are used for these projects and this one has an influx of funds, they will use the money for something else.
A – (Delegate Comstock) One of the things we do at the state level, we wanted more competition at the beginning of the project on the front end. We want to have competition on Phase 2. We want to be part of a project that is bringing the cost down. Unfortunately what the MWAA board has done is that they have tried to force union (PLA-Project Labor Agreement) mandates to increase the cost between 10-20%. Let’s have a level playing field so everyone can bid equally. You still have conditions on safety, so we can find the real cost on what it would be. The problem that they want to know that there will be enough competition to drive costs down. Congressman Wolf passed a law to put more board members on the MWAA board and the MWAA board refuses to seat them. We want to know what we are getting into.
A – We cannot tread into what the MWAA board’s decisions are. Whether it is financing costs, project costs, scope, labor rates, anything that will save money on the cost will lower the toll costs. The continued possibility of federal, state grants. Anything that comes off the top drops the toll rates.
Q – So there is no calendar date for MWAA to drop the PLA?
A – (Delegate Comstock) Elected officials asked MWAA why they are risking $150M. They are more concerned about driving up the cost than having the funding partners listened to.
Q – I am puzzled by the arithmetic. The gross total was $150M (to pay into the project) to be used by MWAA (to reduce the toll rates).
A – MWAA has not finalized the toll rates, showing the impact the tolls rates. Depending on the amount of money the state provides and how MWAA leverages the money it would have a positive impact on the toll rates.
Q – We have the concerns that if traffic bails off of the toll road, it will come into our neighborhoods.
A – One reason why the number of toll road transactions will be going down, more people will be using the Silver Line but some will be avoiding the higher toll rates. The challenges we have as a county is determining that breaking point. MWAA has not set the rates for the tolls yet. They will have public meetings this Summer; MWAA could set rates for one year or multiple years. Once the rates are set we will have a better idea of what the number of transaction would be at that rate. If we have a significant diversion to avoid the tolls then we will be looking studying and mitigating the impacts on those roads.