With more eyes on Loudoun County than likely have ever been on it, the Loudoun Board of Supervisors voted 5-4 on Tuesday to continue participating with the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, which will extend the now-under-construction Silver Line from Wiehle Avenue in Reston to Route 772 in Ashburn.
“Well the day has finally come for this board to make the decision about the future of Loudoun County,” County Chairman Scott K. York (I-At Large) said as the vote approached. “This will help our employers reach our employees regionally.”
York and Supervisors Ken Reid (R-Leesburg), Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn), Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) and Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run) voted in supported, while Supervisors Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian), Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin), Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge) and Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) voted against the project.
“I don’t think this package is a good deal for Loudoun,” Higgins said. “I think we couldn’t gotten a better deal.”
By participating in the project, Loudoun agrees to pay 4.8 percent of the construction costs of both phases of the project, totaling about $270 million. In total, about $16 million in ongoing maintenance and operation plus $18 million in annual debt service payments would put the county on the hook for about $34 million per year, minus any use of the county’s share of gas tax money and additional revenue coming from development around the new rail stations.
In addition, the board agreed to pursue a special tax district near the rail station, which would exclude existing residential and businesses located farther away from stations from taxes for Metro. However, if costs are higher than anticipated, other sources of revenue, including general fund dollars, could be used to make up the difference.
About 50 speakers showed up one final time Monday night, and a couple more Tuesday morning, mostly to encourage supervisors to stick to the plan and participate in the project.
Virginia Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston), who has been part of the group advocating for rail to Dulles for 20 years, says getting past the "small but very vocal" minority of dissenters was key.
"It is a great relief," Plum said of Loudoun's Tuesday vote. "It was a good decision. It would have been a serious mistake to do otherwise. Rail will be good for the longterm economic growth of Loudoun and of the corridor."
Said Patty Nicoson of the Dulles Corridor Rail Association: “With the financing plan in place and almost every question raised and answered by the Board during this process, this is an extremely positive step for Loudoun County and the region."
Fairfax County had reconfirmed its support in April. Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova said Tuesday she was happy with Loudoun's vote.
"I’m happy to see that Loudoun County has decided to remain a committed partner in Rail to Dulles," said 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."