Fighting back opposition from conservative groups, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors today voted to reaffirm its support for extending Metrorail from Reston to Loudon County.
The board had been wavering in its support of the project, driven partly by protests from citizen groups who say the cost of the project far exceeds its economic benefits and commuters who fear that high tolls on the Dulles Access Road will be the most lasting legacy of the project.
“Iâ€™m happy to see that Loudoun County has decided to remain a committed partner in Rail to Dulles,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova. “I look forward to continuing to work to maximize the economic development potential that rail brings, and finding ways to keep tolls affordable and protect Fairfax County residents and commuters.”
Metro Board Chair Catherine Hudgins, a Fairfax Board member from Reston, also congratulated Loudoun.
“For more than three decades, we have witnessed the incredible benefits that come from having Metro in our communities — from serving as a catalyst for economic development and smart growth, to improved mobility and reduced congestion. Todayâ€™s vote enables the long planned extension of the Metrorail system along the Dulles Corridor, with the companion benefits, to now proceed.”
Former governor and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine applauded the board’s decision.
â€œI believe in the positive economic benefit of infrastructure investments, especially as we look for ways to strengthen our economy, create jobs, and put people to work. Rail to Dulles is a great example of what we can accomplish when we come together as Democrats and Republicans in the public and private sector to make investments that will grow our economy,” Kaine said. “I was thrilled to work with so many to move Dulles Rail off the drawing board and into reality.
â€œPhase I of Dulles Rail is employing people right now, setting the stage for significant growth in the corridor, and will soon offer Northern Virginians another badly needed transit option. By choosing to partner in Phase II, Loudoun will see short and long-term economic benefits,” Kaine said. Dulles International Airport is a powerful point of connection to the global economy and extending rail service to the airport and beyond will help our entire Commonwealth create jobs and attract world class businesses.â€
In recent weeks, business leaders had worked to win the support of Loudoun politicians, arguing that the economic benefit of linking Loudoun County with Dulles International Airport and the high-tech industries clustered in neighboring Fairfax County would far outweigh any increased tax burden or toll-road fees. They cited a survey by a George Mason University economist who said that Loudoun could choose to remain a fairly typical suburban economy or it could become the Washington areaâ€™s powerhouse, developing an export-based economy that would be 10 or more times greater than its current economic output.
The deciding factor, according to Stephen S. Fuller, Director of GMUâ€™s Center for Regional Analysis, is whether the county goes ahead with construction of the Metrorail Silver Line from Restonâ€™s Wiehle Avenue past Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County.
â€œThe opportunity cost of not extending Metrorail into Loudon 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,â€ Fuller cautioned in a report released in May.
Although most of the funding for the $2.7 billion project is coming from bonds issued by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), backers are also counting on funds from Fairfax and Loudoun Counties as well as Virginia.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in April reaffirmed its commitment, agreeing to contribute up to $498 million.