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This article is the latest in an ongoing series about the Dulles rail project. The first part dealt with the various options on the table for the Loudoun County Board as it considers Silver line funding options, while the second story addresses the federal government's role —or lack thereof — in funding the project's Phase 2. Another installment addessed the role of the Dulles Toll Road in funding the project.
After four hours of debate last night, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors merely inched closer to deciding how to fund its commitment to Phase 2 of the Dulles rail project. The discussion left some Metro-to-Loudoun supporters on the board visibly frustrated and raised the probability that a majority of supervisors will decide to opt out of the project when a final vote is held in two weeks.
Loudoun's $270 million commitment would ensure that the Silver line would extend not just to Dulles Airport but further west into the county. The board's decision to opt out would delay the start of construction on Phase 2.
"I've been saying all along, it's 50/50. I still think it's 50/50," said Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles), a Phase 2 supporter, after Monday night's marathon work session.
The supervisors met to determine how the county would finance the project, but only settled on submitting three options to the board staff for further consideration: creating a county-wide commercial and industrial tax, implementing special tax districts around the two future Metro stops that would levy taxes on commercial properties or adding tax districts based on the borders of the county's planning sub-areas.
"In my view, we eliminated too many options from the table," Letourneau said. "The board took off the table any use of the general fund whatsoever, which I think is a mistake."
Four of the nine board members are considered "opt in" votes, but it's not clear if they will be able to sway any of their colleagues to reach the five-vote majority necessary to support bringing Metrorail to Loudoun County.
Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) made a show of voting against every financing option, declaring "Metro is evil." He declined to explain his opposition further during a break in the meeting.
Of the four remaining supervisors leaning toward "opting out," three signed and submitted a list of 21 demands they would like satisfied in order to support the project.
Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) initiated the "opt-in consideration" list, which included proposals outside the Loudoun board's power. For example, Higgins is asking the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to add two Virginia board members.
The supervisors plan to hold one final work session to determine if they can provide a financing framework before a July 3 deadline for deciding whether to participate.
Letourneau argues opting out would hurt the county for decades, and delay construction by at least 18 months.
"It is possible the project would get completed to Dulles Airport, but it will stop at Dulles Airport. There will be a rail line behind it which would make it impossible for it to ever be continued into Loudoun County," Letourneau said. "That's the worse case scenario for us, where we are paying very high tolls, but we are getting no economic benefit."