The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday morning to confirm the county’s participation in Phase II of the Dulles Metrorail Project.
Board members said though the funding scheme was not perfect, supporting the project was making an investment in the county’s economic future.
The county is responsible for anywhere from $433 to $498 million of the $2.7 billion extension past Wiehle Avenue in Reston to Dulles Airport.
Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said are “very legitimate.”
But “‘Participation,’ in this case, means three stations – Reston, Herndon, and Innovation,” Foust said. “Fundamentally, tolls will go up to bring rail to Dulles Airport. What we are deciding here today is whether we will have three economic engines along that rail line.”
John Cook, Braddock District supervisor, said the second phase was indeed a transportation project, but it was "the economic development that makes the project something that, I think, is good for Fairfax County,” he said.
Sully District Supervisor Michael Frey said he could "come up with far more reasons why we shouldn’t [participate].”
“I believe it was the Grateful Dead who said ‘What a long, strange trip it’s been,” he said.
Frey cited toll rates, the cost of the project and the uncertainty among the board for alternative funding sources as reasons for opposition.
But Frey ultimately supported the decision to buy in, saying: “It doesn’t make sense to build rail to Wiehle Avenue. … I will support reluctantly, but I will support.”
Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay supported the decision, but expressed concern about using too much of the county’s Commercial and Industrial Real Estate Tax Fund to finance it.
“It is a flexible source of transportation revenue when the state has abandoned us,” he said.
McKay also stressed the county must recruit the state to help with toll increases. It has committed to $150 million, but an additional $300 million Democrats were hoping for is no longer in the budget.
“I think it is the state’s obligation to support a project of this magnitude,” McKay said. “[To] support the biggest job creator in the Northern Virginia area right now.”
Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, who has been vocally opposed to the county's participation in the past, was not present at Tuesday's vote because he was .
The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has until early July to decide whether it will commit its share of approximately $260 million to the project. The board has requested additional time because many of its members were recently elected in November 2011.
Catherine Hudgins, Hunter Mill District supervisor, said she wanted to convey to the Loudoun board the urgency of the matter and hoped they could come to a decision as soon as possible.
Phase I of the project, which ends at Wiehle Avenue, is expected to open in late 2013 or early 2014. The second phase could be completed in five years if delays to construction can be avoided.
“It is my hope that Phase II will move forward as planned, and we will all be able to take advantage of the enormous economic development opportunities the Silver Line extension will present," Board Chair Sharon Bulova said after the vote.
Fairfax County's Recommended Station Names
Before the vote on Fairfax County's participation, the board approved a list of names for Silver Line stations in the county. After receiving 16,000 responses to a survey regarding the names, county staff came up with a list that was deemed less confusing than previous recommendations. They can be found below.
- Tysons Corner
- Spring Hill
- Wiehle-Reston East
- Reston Town Center
- Innovation Center
"This is a much clearer set of names that will assist our riders for the long term," McKay said.
The names are simply the county's recommendations; the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) must approve them in order for the list to be adopted.