In the latest Perils of Pauline episode, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has agreed to give its counterparts in Loudoun County more time to ponder Loudoun’s involvement in Phase II of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, which would extend the Metro Silver Line from Reston to Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County.
Phase I of the line, from West Falls Church to Reston, is under construction and expected to open by 2014.
Loudoun had previously been on board with the project and had tentatively agreed to share construction costs with Fairfax and the other funding agencies, which include the Commonwealth of Virginia, U.S. Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which owns the Dulles Toll Road and anticipates taking a large share of funding for the Metro project out of the hides of commuting motorists.
But Loudoun has been second-guessing itself thanks to two recent events: the voters’ decision to replace most of the Loudoun board in the recent election and the release by MWAA of preliminary engineering estimates that are $1 billion lower than previous estimates.
In asking the Fairfax Board to cut some slack for Loudoun yesterday, Board Chair Sharon Bulova noted that, despite Loudoun’s recent misgivings, the latest cost estimates “are consistent with what we have been working with during the past year.”
She noted that the 90-day opt out deadline for Fairfax and Loudoun is June 4, 2012. But on March 7, the Loudoun board approved a letter asking Fairfax County and MWAA to extend the deadline an additional 30 days.
“I understand that such an extension would not delay the Phase II project and that MWAA will continue to develop its Request for Proposals,” Bulova said. The Fairfax board voted to allow the extension. MWAA must also agree to the extension.
Economist warns Loudoun
Loudoun’s loss of confidence is not without its risks, a local economist warned recently.
Dr. Stephen Fuller, the director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, said that without Metrorail, Loudoun could forfeit billions of dollars in economic activity and lost earnings in just a single decade, the Loudoun Times reported.
In a letter to the board, Fuller said the county is “poised to transition from a residentially supported economic base to an export base composed of higher value-added jobs whose markets are regional, national and global.” He said the county could be giving up 40,000 jobs by turning it back on Metro.