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Silver Line Opponents Blame The Feds

Dulles Rail detractors cite lack of federal money for Phase 2

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Construction crews work on the Silver Line to Dulles International Airport.
Wayan Vota <http://www.flickr.com/photos/dcmetroblogger/5178382413/>
Construction crews work on the Silver Line to Dulles International Airport.

This article is the second part of an ongoing series. The first article dealt with the various options on the table for Loudoun County to fund the project.

As the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors weighs a big decision that will affect the future of one of the largest public works projects in the country, opponents of the Silver Line Metro-to-Dulles Airport project are pointing to the federal government as a reason why the county should withdraw from the project.

The federal government provided no transportation dollars for Phase 2 — which is estimated cost of $2.7 billion — because the planned rail link failed to meet ridership criteria. As a result, the State of Virginia and Fairfax and Loudoun Counties agreed to cover the costs. But now the size of those costs is becoming clear, Phase 2 opponents are urging the Loudoun County Board to dump a project that will cost the county $270 million up front.

"Previous boards really didn't make any serious inquiry into what Metro was doing," said Alfred Van Huyck, a former Loudoun planning board member who now opposes the Silver Line after supporting it early last decade. "They just were for it. The real facts of what it is going to cost Loudoun have only come out this year."

Silver Line supporters say this criticism is unfair because past boards agreed to pay.

"There was never, ever, ever an expectation of federal money for Phase 2," said Dan Scandling, a spokesman for Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va). "The deal that was cut was the federal government would provide $900 million for Phase 1. When the project started, it needed to meet certain federal standards. To meet those standards, the decision was made to split the project into two ... and Phase 2 would be up to the local partners."

Scandling said some opponents are using selective memory to oppose Loudoun's participation in the project that will connect Metro to the airport and west into Loudoun County.

"Even if there were a plan to get federal money, the federal government is broke," Scandling said. "Where are you going to get the money? On top of that, how are you going to get the money to Virginia? It can't be earmarked. Earmarks have been banned."

Loudoun County has until July 4 to decide whether to opt out of Phase 2 of the Silver Line. If it does, the project would be delayed by at least 18 months. Under the current financing arrangement, 54 percent of the entire Silver Line's costs will be paid by Dulles Toll Road users.

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