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Counting to Five

Five supervisors will decide the fate of Metrorail to Loudoun.

In my , I listed ten reasons why I thought the Silver Line would ultimately be extended into Loudoun County. It was partly a prediction, and partly an argument in favor of the project.

Eleven months later, the fate of the rail project remains undetermined. While I still think a majority of the will vote in favor of the project, it is hard to see where the necessary five votes will come from.

Chairman Scott York and supervisors Ralph Buona and Shawn Williams have been vocal advocates for the project. It appears likely that Dulles District Supervisor Matt Letourneau will also get on board.

But that fifth vote is proving to be elusive.

I have spoken with several people inside the county government recently and asked their opinions about the prospects for rail to Loudoun. Most seemed doubtful, saying that they could not count five votes in favor of the project – even after the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) dropped an incentive for union-friendly project labor agreements.

Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio has opposed the project for years, and can be counted as a definite “no” vote. The other four supervisors – Janet Clarke, Geary Higgins, Ken Reid and Suzanne Volpe – have had much more to say against the project than in favor.

Having closely observed the Board of Supervisors for more than two decades, I know how difficult it can be to predict how a majority of supervisors will vote on a given issue. The fact that those four supervisors have been on the board less than six months makes it even harder to guess what they will do.

One fact that has certainly gotten the attention of all the supervisors is the clear support that the project has in the community. Opinion polls and public input consistently show that more than 70 percent of Loudoun residents want Metrorail in Loudoun County.

While one might question the validity of any measure of public approval, there is a developing consensus that a sizable segment of the community wants this project. That is difficult for any politician not named Delgaudio to ignore.

Ashburn Patch editor Dusty Smith that could affect the outcome. He quoted County Attorney Jack Roberts as saying that the board must take action if it wants to opt out of the project. Failure to act by the July 4 deadline would, in effect, be a decision to opt in.

This means that it will take five votes to opt out, but not necessarily to opt in. As strange as it might seem, that could make a difference. If one board member is absent for the vote, or chooses to abstain, a motion to opt out could fail 4-4.

Conventional wisdom holds that the Metrorail project is more popular in eastern Loudoun, where many residents commute eastward to jobs in Fairfax, Arlington and Washington, D.C. This places additional pressure on Volpe and Clarke, in particular, to vote for the project.

This might surprise some who still consider the Blue Ridge District, which Clarke represents, to be a western Loudoun district. But since the recent redistricting, more than a third of the district’s residents live in Brambleton precincts, in the shadow of Dulles Airport. Metrorail would present a viable commuting alternative for them as the roads around Dulles get increasingly congested.

If Clarke envisions a political future for herself beyond 2015, she probably would not want to be known as the supervisor who cast the deciding vote to kill Metrorail to Loudoun.

The stakes are particularly high for York, who has worked hard and effectively on this project for a decade.

In the November 2011 elections, York endorsed Reid, Volpe and Delgaudio over Democratic opponents who were likely “yes” votes for Loudoun Metrorail.

If those three become part of a majority that bands together to kill the project, it would be a bitter pill for him to swallow.

This is the most important issue that board has faced during York’s 12-plus years as chairman. If he cannot pull together four members of an all-Republican Board to support him on this key issue, it will appear to many observers that Delgaudio, not York, has become the de facto leader of the board.

I still think the board will ultimately decide to opt in to the Metrorail project. But I’m still trying to count five votes, one way or the other.

Victoria Glenn June 15, 2012 at 12:09 AM
I would bet you are wrong and more people support this than you know. The BOS will listen to the people and do whats best for us here in Loudoun..bring on the metro!!
Dave June 15, 2012 at 01:12 AM
It takes money and investment to make money - including *lowering* the property tax rate while still funding properly functioning County services. If Metro brings in a commercial core - which is a certainty - it's almost certain that a larger percentage of County revenues could come from commercial revenues and the residential tax rate would go down. Why do you think the rate is so much lower in Fairfax? Commercial core. YES TO METRO!!! And for those complaining about the tax rate - yes, it's high on simply property taxes - but try comparing your county revenue sources to what MD charges - lower property taxes and similar state income tax - but a county income tax that runs in the 55-63% rate of the State tax. Nowhere near the same tax burden on this side of the river (unless you've got a lower income and you are living on 500+ acres... then, I guess you would have a real point of contention here).
Stacey F June 15, 2012 at 01:40 AM
I don't see a problem with paying an extra $100 to help get the Metro in Loudoun.
The Baconator June 15, 2012 at 03:05 AM
We need one more vote, or from the sounds of it we only need everyone to stay with their current opinion. I hope the politicians are listening to their citizens. We want Metro and we want it yesterday. Vote no and we vote no to you. It's that simple.
Vineet Aggarwal June 15, 2012 at 11:46 AM
I'm kind of getting sick of these opt-out people saying the pro-Metro people are being hoodwinked, aren't using their brains, etc. What makes these 20% of people so darn smart that they know something the rest of us 80% don't know? Oh yeah, that's right, they make stuff up. Take a look at all the posts about the forged flyers, letters, etc. that these people have been distributing. That's where all their "facts" come from. Hey, I can make stuff up too! Roads are good! Mass transit is bad! Taxes suck even though I take advantage of tax money every day as soon as I wake up and step out of my house! The Earth is flat!
Kadey Mackenzie June 15, 2012 at 01:15 PM
You took the words right out of my mouth Vineet! Hoodwinked and don't forget boondoggle! We are going to pay taxes whether we like it or not and I, for one, would really like to see my hard earned money going somewhere other than someone's pocket. I have paid them in this county for 15 years and if I have to pay another 98 bucks a year to get the metro out here I will do it happily and without complaint.
Bob Bruhns June 15, 2012 at 03:24 PM
We have seen tax promises before. To ensure that taxes do not rise more than this $100, let's see all who are in favor of this rail ripoff, pledge right here and now, to personally pay any future unknown costs that would cause taxes to rise more than this supposed $100, so that other taxpayers only see $100 higher taxes regardless. There really should be no problem with this agreement. After all, you must know a lot more than the Supervisors do, if you say the costs won't go above that. So who's signing on? Taxpayers anxiously await your pledges. Oh, you'll have to sign with witnesses and notaries, but that shouldn't deter you. What? You're not crazy, you're not agreeing to that? Well then, I guess you're not too sure, are you. Just as I suspected.
Kristen H June 15, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Vineet, I've been thinking the same thing. I'm just tired of the condescending tone they take. I understand how taxes work, and I understand that sometimes you have to pay taxes for things you don't use. I don't have kids, but I also don't mind paying taxes to keep schools running for those who do. Progress sometimes costs money. Some of us accept that and are willing to pay. Of course, I'd also be more willing to listen if the worst offenders 1) told the truth and 2) could form sentences that were factual and comprehensible. I can't read the comments without having to picture someone screaming at me.
Tax Pig June 16, 2012 at 01:00 AM
Loudoun Opt Out Group offers this information from Gabriel Roth and Randall O’Toole, who have studied similar projects all over the world. Analyzing and reporting on tranportation is what they do. http://loudounoptout.blogspot.com/2012/06/if-us-government-can-opt-out-why-cant.html
Tax Pig June 16, 2012 at 01:01 AM
"How will Loudoun County pay for the Silverline now that the Federal government has opted out?", This question has yet to be resolved, and probably never will be. That is because everyone wants the Metro when it is free but nobody likes it nearly as much when they get a glimpse at the price tag.
Tax Pig June 16, 2012 at 01:01 AM
Taxes: Loudoun should have the funding mechanisms in place before voting to opt into the project. This would require another extension of time from the other funding partners, as there is no way the legislature can approve the creation of rail tax districts before July 4. The Board should vote to Opt Out until funding is fully secured.
Tax Pig June 16, 2012 at 01:05 AM
This was called the Green Shirt Mandate. Poll was sponsored by the rail station developers who also brought us the Stephen Fuller Study
Tax Pig June 16, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Tolls: If Loudoun continues in the project, tolls will go up, as planned, on Jan. 1, 2013, and it will decrease mobility and isolate Loudoun from DC and Fairfax. If Loudoun Opts Out, the funding agreement will have to be reworked and, with or without Loudoun, a better funding plan could be negotiated. Loudoun could negotiate with MWAA for relief from soaring toll rates. Loudoun taxpayers and commuters should not be forced to finance a transit mode they won't be using.
Tax Pig June 16, 2012 at 01:08 AM
speculation is not for the government, period.
Tax Pig June 16, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Traffic: Rail will be built to the Rt. 28 station and Dulles Airport with or without Loudoun County. Loudoun residents could ride buses to the Rt. 28 station bus drop areas on the North or South side of the Toll Road. Planned and proposed interchanges on Rt. 7 will make access to the Rt. 28 station more convenient for those who chose not to ride buses. From Rt. 28 towards DC, the best way to decrease traffic congestion on the Dulles Corridor would be to institute electronic variable tolling on the Dulles Airport Access Road and allow HOV/Bus traffic. The eight miles of I-66 from the Toll Road to Washington, DC still need improvement, but in the meanwhile, added buses could easily deliver commuters to the West Falls Church station on the Orange Line via their dedicated exit from the Toll Road.
Tax Pig June 16, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Daniel Veloce 7 days ago This measure is outrageous. As the petition states, the proposed Metro stop will be used by a great many more than those within 1-2 miles. Also, any argument for this proposal based upon increased land values is a bit disingenuous. Potential increases in land values will include those who own land well beyond the 2 mile boundary, much deeper into Loudoun County. I note there has been neary a mention of the increased traffic congestion and crime rates that those within 2 miles of the station can expect, which, any fair-minded individual would agree, offsets the increased land value arguments. This proposal is tantamount to tyranny of the masses...it fails the fairness test, big time. Ashburn resident
The Baconator June 16, 2012 at 05:41 AM
Busses to West Falls Church will be slow moving, you could ride a bike to West Falls Church durring rush hour faster. Everyone driving to the Metro station in Reston would seriously compromise traffic in Reston as well. Traffic in Reston already sucks, so I think we do need the extra Loudoun station to split the people rushing to the stations up in the morning. People will be less likely to use the Metro if they have to sit in traffic for a half hour or 45 min just to get to the station. I used to commute to Reston from Sterling and it took about a half hr to 45 min depending on traffic and I wasn't competing with extra people trying to get to the rail station. We need the Metro in Loudoun and Reston, but I do kinda dig Tax pig and Bob's fondness for busses. Have you by any chance seen the new article on cnn yesterday that outlined how there is a link between diesel exhaust and cancer? You might like cancer but I would like to try and avoid it. Busses really aren't that good for our environment. Add to that their limited passenger capacity and I think you really make a much larger carbon footprint with busses then you do with a clean non cancer causing rail car like the Metro.
Bob Bruhns June 16, 2012 at 11:58 AM
Well if bus exhaust is a real concern, then you might want to get out of Loudoun County altogether - because about 99% of the county is going to need bus to get to and from the rail stations over on the east side, and those buses will have to run day and night like the Metrorail does. But people shouldn't be fearmongered by worries about bus exhaust, because (1) more and more buses are using natural gas, and (2) today's buses can run on electric power where it is available, and switch to natural gas to run on roads out in the less dense areas of the county where there is no dedicated bus lane. Try that with a train! Fairfax County has Metrorail stations from three Metro lines (Orange, Blue and Yellow), plus stations from two VRE rail lines (Red and Blue), and almost everybody needs some conveyance to get to and from the rail stations. This will remain true even with the Silver Line. Loudoun County will have a couple of stations on its east side, and it will have the same issue. What we need are dedicated bus routes, that will establish and reserve the future rail arteries when that becomes appropriate. What we are doing now with premature rail involves too much cost, and requires too much financing. Much of this cost and financing is deliberately hidden now - but the result will be an economic drain where an asset should be.
Bob Bruhns June 16, 2012 at 12:17 PM
Pro-rail people want to point to some bogus cost projection and say "Oh, it will only cost you this much." But notice that nobody wants to pledge to cover any excess costs that this rail project may incur, in case their promise falls through. So they are really saying "Oh, well it will only cost this much - but we aren't guaranteeing that or anything. Do you think we're crazy?" People need to look for themselves. Here comes a rail system that already has some $13 Billion of deferred maintenance, so evidently it is really a financial nightmare. And who will PAY that $13 billion, plus the maintenance that will be necessary for its operation here? And the bus system that will have to support the rail line - who will pay for that? And the tolls - you should realize that they will have to be paid down with a big expensive loan that will be repaid with 50 to 75 million tax dollars every year for fifty years or more. Who will pay for that? But none of that is being considered - all you hear is some Supervisor saying "Oh, well we need a few hundred million right now, that's affordable. Somehow. I guess. We can scrape it together. I suppose. Somehow." Really? You're going to trust your future to that kind of thinking?
joe brewer June 16, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Lookie Lookie Here Moreover, the location of the proposed airport Metrorail station does not allow for the nearby construction of such facilities. The station has been located in close proximity to the main terminal in order to optimize the convenience for air passengers and airport workers. It also is in close proximity to existing parking garages which are needed to accommodate the expected growth in air travelers. All unimproved land that is near the station is in high demand and has been designated by our planning documents for airport use only. And even if there were some unimproved land available, the use of such land for commuter facilities would be restrained by regulations governing the historic main terminal and Saarinen Circle. In short, land 1 Aviation Circle, Washington, DC 20001-6000 • www.mwaa.com The Honorable Scott York Page 2 is simply not available reasonably near the proposed airport Metrorail station to accommodate new commuter parking, bus and other facilities. The Airports Authority certainly hopes that Loudoun County will remain a participant and partner in the Silver Line project. However, whether the County opts in or out of the project, the Airports Authority will not be in a position to provide land adjacent to or near the airport Metrorail station for parking garages, bus facilities and roadways intended to serve commuters from Loudoun and other jurisdictions.
CC Mojo June 16, 2012 at 01:34 PM
That's funny, I heard it was called a WTOP poll. It's funny how you can't even get that straight, Piggie.
CC Mojo June 16, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Decrease mobility? Isolate Loudoun from DC and Fairfax? You are delusional. DELUSIONAL. I think the fumes from carrying around that parade float have gone to your head.
Dave June 16, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Joe, I doubt if you intended to do so, but you just made a good case for why Metro should be extended to Rt 772. MWAA/WMATA will build this to Dulles at this point one way or another. They will jack up the rates on the toll road, one way or another (maybe more if Loudoun opts out). And there won't be any commuter parking at Dulles because (1) there isn't room and (2) even if there was, Dulles isn't going to put lower cost Metro parking when they charge $8-30 a day to airport parkers. And I seriously doubt if access and parking at the Rt 28 station would be redesigned for Loudoun commuters - add a metro commuter terminus (instead of a station) to the Toll Road/Greenway/28 interchange... on top of existing Loudoun traffic + One Loudoun and Kincora.... congratulations, it will be a new 'mixing bowl' sized project to enhance the interchange to move traffic through there. If Metro isn't built into Loudoun, hope the BoS is planning on immediately shutting down all development until they can figure out what to fund what is already coming without Metro.... riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. Loudoun YES TO METRO!
Myth Buster June 17, 2012 at 02:27 AM
Vineet - I completely agree with you. The Loudoun Opt-Out crowd and their less than credible tactics are wearing on my last nerve. Let me provide a few examples, 1) on 5/24 I was literally stalked by a LOO member during a Community Out-Reach work shop at Mill Run ES. This person called me "stupid moron who is being lied to by the County". When I asked to be left alone, he followed me around the meeting and out to my car. 2) Fast forward a few days later and I was at the Dulles North parking lot (yes using the Loudoun Transit service), where I was handed a leaflet that appeared to be from the County - which is was not. 3) Finally last Sunday while attending Church (Lady of Hope) I and nearly every other parishioner had a "Letter to Supervisor Volpe" 4) And the "cherry" on LOO sundae was an anonymous email stating Supervisor Volpe had hired (which she did not) a lobbyist. The Loudoun Opt-Out, LaRock and Tax Pig (what a fitting name) have completely lost any and all credibility in my book. Their tactics are dishonest, repugnant and slightly stalker-ess.
Victoria Glenn June 17, 2012 at 02:53 AM
I did not know that we will become an island isolated from everything..good to know. I was under the mistaken assumption that the rail was going to make it even easier and more economical to travel. My family plans to use the rail, quite literally, daily. So sorry you wont be joining us piggie.
Victoria Glenn June 17, 2012 at 02:57 AM
You do realize piggie that nothing is certain in life right? Sometimes speculation and projection are all you have and no progress was ever made through out history, by people waiting for a sure thing, and that includes the government. So unless that pig of yours is a time machine how can you say you are not basing your opinions on speculation as well?
abroderick June 17, 2012 at 03:59 AM
I don't understand this idealized bus system. I don't know if you've ever actually taken a bus, but they are slow and indirect. They are also almost always late. I welcome the Metro because it makes sense.
Bob Bruhns June 18, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Show me a bus system around here that is in dedicated bus lanes, and let's see its schedule performance.
J Williams June 19, 2012 at 03:00 AM
Dedicated bus lanes? Where exactly would you put those on our already congested roads? And where would the money to build and maintain them come from? This does not sound like a viable solution to me. The metro is the way to go for the benefit of Loudoun
Bob Bruhns June 19, 2012 at 03:03 PM
I would start by placing them into the present rail right of way, from Wiehle Avenue to Ashburn. If you don't think bus would fit in there, how do you plan to fit rail in there? With the money that would be saved, I would extend dedicated bus lanes further into Loudoun County, to Leesburg and beyond. This will establish transit corridors and reserve future rail right of way. Tell me, do you or your leaders have any plans to reserve future rail right of way in Loudoun County, or are you all just play-acting a supposed plan for the future, that is only a quick ripoff today? You need to reserve future railway with dedicated bus lanes, and let the bus transit prepare the way until rail actually becomes appropriate. It sure isn't appropriate now - witness that you really can't pay for it. You are ignoring most of the real costs, and then you are struggling to figure out how to pay the small part of the costs that are visible through the blinders that you put on. Face it, you need to go with bus until rail becomes appropriate. That will probably take twenty to thirty years. Yes, I know - you want RAIL! NOW! Etc. But jumping the gun will only break the bank.

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