WAMU 88.5 : News

MWAA On Silver Line: Loudoun Must Stick To Deadline

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Construction on the Silver line near the West Falls Church Metro station. Loudoun County is still deciding whether it will chip in for the next phase of the line, which would extend into the county.
Mylon Medley
Construction on the Silver line near the West Falls Church Metro station. Loudoun County is still deciding whether it will chip in for the next phase of the line, which would extend into the county.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) will not grant a request by three members of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors to extend a deadline for a critical decision affecting Phase 2 of the Silver line rail project to Dulles Airport.

MWAA CEO Jack Potter tells WAMU 88.5 the airports board will not give Loudoun County until December to decide whether to opt out of the $2.7 billion rail link. The current deadline is July 4; the Loudoun board of supervisors is expected to vote July 3.

On Monday, the three board members — Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin), Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge) and Ken Reid (R-Leesburg) — issued a list of 21 "considerations" upon which their support may ride (PDF). They requested a six-month deadline extension to make a decision on the $270 million Loudoun will have to contribute to Phase 2. 

Currently only four members of the nine-member board support the project; one more is needed to prevent the county from opting out. If Loudoun County votes to opt out, the start of Phase 2 would be delayed at least 18 months.

"We are looking forward to a decision on July 3," said Potter, who said Loudoun officials were already granted a 30-day extension that pushed the final decision into next month.

Although only four of nine county supervisors currently support Phase 2, Potter said he was optimistic Loudoun will opt in.

"They are starting to address some of the more challenging issues with Phase 2. One of the biggest issues they have is how to finance Phase 2," Potter said. "The fact that they are actively engaged in discussions about tax districts and finding other means of dealing with the funding, I find that encouraging."

A proposal to create a special tax district around the planned Metro stops west of the airport was one of three ideas the Loudoun board agreed to consider to pay for the county’s $270 million Phase 2 commitment. The board will hold a work session June 29 to decide on a financing framework before the final vote. The tax district would levy taxes on commercial properties that stand to benefit from the presence of a Metro stop nearby.

Supervisor Ken Reid (R-Leesburg) said he would support Metrorail to Loudoun if the board approves the proposal for the special tax district. Reid has been on the fence.

"Looking at the numbers, it looks to me that it will help pay for the cost of Dulles rail without burdening the rest of the county," said Reid, who maintains that the Silver line would not solve the county’s transportation problems. "I still think that some of our conditions … are things the Airports Authority and WMATA should be discussing with us."

But those conditions were not intended to be an ultimatum, Reid adds.

"I think that many of the issues there are beyond anyone’s control," said Potter. "It's great for someone to have a wish list for what they would like to have in a perfect world, but much of what they wrote down is unattainable."

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