Letter About Dulles Rail to Federal Transit Administration
The Honorable James Simpson
Federal Transit Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
4th & 5th Floors, East Building
Washington, D.C. 20590
Dear Administrator Simpson:
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is an ardent supporter of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project to Tysons Corner and Dulles International Airport and hereby reaffirms its longstanding support for this project. This project has been the County’s highest transportation priority since 1999. This project serves the millions of United States citizens who visit the nation’s capital each year. It is not simply another local project competing for scarce federal funds. We are deeply concerned by statements made during your January 24th meeting with Governor Kaine and your subsequent letter. We exhort the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to take a detailed appraisal of Governor Kaine’s response into your considerations. We trust that you will reach the same conclusion as we have – that expansion of the Metrorail system to Dulles merits, and needs, the funding support of the federal government.
Fairfax County and our partners at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), Loudoun County and the Commonwealth of Virginia have complied with every requirement placed on us by the FTA during more than 10 years of project planning, development, and engineering. We have not wavered from our goal to bring a Metrorail extension to the Dulles Corridor, a vision established by the Federal Aviation Administration in 1964, despite the more than 3 years of delay endured by changes in FTA technical guidance and administrative policies. FTA-imposed delays have cost this project almost $400 million.
We have a unique project that not only provides increased transit capacity to the Dulles Corridor, Tysons Corner, and Dulles International Airport by providing about 100,000 transit trips daily, but also provides for the most cutting edge of financing of any transit project in the nation. Our funding is comprised of a $400 million tax improvement district on commercial and industrial properties petitioned by landowners and almost $1 in billion toll revenue from the Dulles Toll Road, and business and professional licensing fees. For Phase I of this project, the FTA funds of $900 million comprise about 36% of total project cost and fall to 17% when Phase II is factored in. No other project in the nation has these varied sources of public and private funding, and tolling, and none has requested such a low percentage of federal participation. This project should be a model for the nation.
In addition to our unique funding approach, we have embarked on major activities to improve land use within Tysons Corner and at all proposed stations in the Dulles Corridor. In 2005, Fairfax County initiated a major study of changes required in our Comprehensive Plan to transform Tysons Corner – the single largest employment center outside of D.C. and the largest retail center on the east coast outside of New York City - into a more urban, pedestrian-friendly environment with transit supportive land use. We have engaged the services of PB Placemaking, an internationally renowned land use and transportation consultant, to assist our staff and a citizens’ task force in the effort to reshape Tysons Corner. We are in the process of obtaining bids from private developers to design and construct a transit-oriented development at the site of the proposed Wiehle Avenue station in Reston, and to participate in the planning of all future station facilities. Such developments will only further increase ridership and the cost effectiveness of this undertaking.
Fairfax County, the business community and the public have been proactive and have made significant investments in financial and human resources to make the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project a reality. Recent polling data shows that more than 90% of residents of Northern Virgina support the construction of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project (DCRA Survey, 11/2007), lest there be doubt in your mind about public support.
WMATA’s Compact member jurisdictions, which include Fairfax County, have always provided the funding necessary to meet WMATA’s operating, capital, and construction needs. We have all approved the Metro Matters program and have taken positive steps to fund it through dedicated Northern Virginia Transportation Authority funds of $50 million annually. We will not shrink from the duties and are prepared to fully fund WMATA now and in the future.
This project has significant economic impacts on the Washington metropolitan region, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the federal government. The Dulles Corridor is the fastest growing area in this region. It houses over 2,300 private businesses and well over 250,000 employees. Many of these companies are Fortune 500 companies and six Fortune 500 companies have their national headquarters in this corridor. Many of these businesses service the federal government in the defense, telecommunication, IT, and homeland security industries. This project will allow the corridor to continue to be the economic engine of the region. The federal government has a critical role to play in transportation for the national capital region, of which Northern Virginia is a part. By assisting to fund the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project through a partnership with state and local authorities, the federal government would meet its responsibility to improving transportation for the entire national capital region.
This project also will serve as an economic stimulus to the region and to the country. Every dollar of federal funds is matched by $2 dollars of local funds to provide an economic stimulus package. Over $2 billion of the project budget will pay for salaries of construction craft workers, administrative employees, and engineers, and for materials and equipment that will come from the four corners of the United States. The project will offer employment to those craftsmen currently suffering in the downturn of the commercial and residential construction markets. It will provide the nation’s manufacturing industry the opportunity to supply steel, concrete, cabling, and other materials necessary to construct the rail extension. The benefits of this project will not only aid local businesses, but also will assist many businesses nationwide. It would be ironic indeed to have the federal government turn down this critical investment while appropriating a $150 billion stimulus package at the same time.
The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project is not just important to Fairfax County as our highest transportation priority; it also will shape our future land use and the economy of the Washington metropolitan area. We have done our part to reach New Starts standards; this project is cost-effective; the cost of the project has been verified by two independent contractors selected by the FTA. MWAA is fully capable of constructing this project as it has constructed more than $7 billion of improvements at Washington Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport; WMATA, with its experience in constructing and operating for 32 years the 106 mile Metrorail system, will provide technical assistance to the project; FTA exposure is capped at $900 million – never have we asked for more funding. It is now time for you to make the right decision to approve this project for Final Design and to ensure that it receives its federal funding share of $900 million through a Full Funding Grant Agreement.
I welcome the opportunity to discuss the benefits of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project with you at your earliest convenience.
Gerald E. Connolly
Chairman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors