LTE: The Best Time to Negotiate is Now
Board of Supervisors member Geary Higgins discusses Metro and what needs to be done before a final decision is made.
I write regarding a very important issue that is currently before the Board of Supervisors, whether Loudoun should vote to extend Metro from Wiehle Avenue into Ashburn by agreeing to “Phase 2 Metro.” Contained within this project are many factors that will have long-lasting effects on Loudoun County as we know it.
I completely support extending Metro to Dulles Airport in Loudoun County. However, I have long stated that I will not support funding the project on the backs of Loudoun’s homeowners who are already financially stretched with the highest real estate tax rates around. I also want to protect the long term interests of our county from a bad contractual agreement over which we will have little to no control after the ink is dry.
Over the last 2 ½ months this board has taken an incredible amount of time and effort trying to understand all of ramifications if we do or don’t approve Phase 2 Metro. “Opting-out” is not as simple as just saying, “No,” and having MWAA build Metro to Dulles Airport. There would be real consequences if we were to withdraw from participation in this project.
For example, Dulles would still expect us to pay to operate and maintain the airport station, MWAA could limit our commuter bus access to the toll road, WMATA could restrict Loudoun’s busses from dropping passengers at Metro stations and not construct parking garages for our commuters, and NVTC could withhold our gas tax money.
“Opting-in” is not as simple as coming up with the money to pay for construction of the Metro stations. It would mean entering into eternal agreements with pseudo-governmental entities that have time and time again shown that they will not operate in an open, fiscally-responsible manner. We would be committed to paying operations and maintenances costs for Metro’s system forever. Even taking into account best case scenarios, Loudoun would stand to spend $1.2 billion before ever breaking even.
How long it will take to recoup that money is anyone’s guess. It also cannot be ignored that extending Metro to Ashburn would eventually put pressure on western Loudoun to develop more homes; I ran on a platform of supporting our current rural western zoning.
I have carefully reviewed countless studies, reports, documents, and funding proposals. I have met with anyone on either side of the debate who has requested a meeting or phone conversation. I have surveyed my district. I have truly made every effort to analyze all possible data and scenarios to make the best decision, not only for the residents of the Catoctin District, but for Loudoun County as a whole.
As a result of my due diligence, I find it extremely shortsighted and unwise to enter into an agreement with MWAA and Fairfax under the current contractual conditions. In an effort to negotiate the best deal for Loudoun, I, along with Vice-Chairman Janet Clarke and Supervisor Ken Reid, put forward a list of ideas for a counterproposal to get Loudoun a fair deal.
I feel strongly that now is the best time to negotiate. As stated in this proposal, “If [the funding partners] truly want to partner with Loudoun County on this project, they will take the time to work through the construction and funding details on this project. This is not much to ask for in return for a lifetime of commitment from our citizens.”
I have posted a copy of our “Rail to Dulles Opt-in Consideration Item 06 18 12” on my Loudoun County Board of Supervisor page. Our final board meeting to discuss possible funding scenarios is scheduled for Friday, June 29 at 5 p.m. The deadline for Loudoun’s Board to take action on Metro is July 4 with board meetings scheduled both July 2 at 5 p.m. and July 3 at 9 a.m.
Geary M. Higgins
Loudoun County Board of Supervisors