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Loudoun County Divided Over Silver Line Commitment

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Loudoun is still struggling to figure out how to pay for their portion of Silver Line construction.
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Loudoun is still struggling to figure out how to pay for their portion of Silver Line construction.

A month before Loudoun County officials must decide whether they will withdraw from the largest public transportation project currently under construction in the country, they have big decisions to weigh about how they might fund the county’s $200 million commitment to the $2.7 billion Phase 2 of the Dulles Metro Rail project, if they fund it at all.

All nine members of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors are Republicans, but the board is divided over funding options. Supervisors who represent eastern districts are opposed by lawmakers in other parts of the county.

"Those of us who represent districts in the east, we understand the clear transportation benefit to having Metro or to having some other path out of the county," says Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles). "My constituents are sitting in traffic. I sit in traffic every day."

On Monday, the board will hold a public hearing where taxpayers can speak out about the funding options under consideration, among other issues: creating a countywide commercial and industrial transportation tax, or creating special tax districts near the future Metro stops.

Letourneau says it is possible to fund the project without raising taxes, but it is possible the average homeowner in Loudoun County could see an annual property tax increase of $98 per year.

On Wednesday, supervisors will meet to discuss their options. No final decision is expected before July 4, the deadline for the county to decide whether it will pull out of the project altogether. Letourneau, who is serving his first term on the board, says the changes are 50/50 for Loudoun to contribute to Phase 2, which would complete the 23-mile rail link to Dulles International Airport and beyond into the county.

Also on Wednesday the board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is expected to decide whether it will drop a controversial pro-labor provision – a project labor agreement or PLA – that would provide bidding contractors a 10 percent bonus on their technical evaluation scores if they choose a union workforce to build Phase 2. Even if the PLA is dropped, Letourneau says the county’s commitment to the project will still be a 50/50 proposition because of other outstanding issues.

"For instance, the Dulles Airport stop has an operating subsidy associated with it that Loudoun County is going to have to pay every year. I don’t think that’s especially logical.  Our residents aren’t going to be using that stop, but it’s going to cost us between $5 million and $7 million per year to pay for that stop,” he says.

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