After months of at times vitriolic debate, the Board of Supervisors voted 5-4 this morning to support the Silver Line extension, and remain in the agreement to continue as a funding partner in the project that will extend Metro from Tysons Corner to the heart of Ashburn. Vice Chairman Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge) and Supervisors Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling), Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) and Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) were opposed.
The first phase of the project is already under construction from Tysons to Wiehle Avenue in Reston and is expected to open next year. The second phase will go from Reston through Dulles Airport to Rt. 606 and Rt. 772.
The vote turned the eyes of the region onto Loudoun’s board as people waited to learn whether the Silver Line project would continue as it has been planned for the last 20 years, or whether it would end at Wiehle Avenue. While the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and Fairfax County have expressed a wish to see Metro extend to Dulles Airport even without Loudoun as a funding partner, there is no plan in place to make that happen and MWAA CEO Jack Potter has said it would likely put a heftier price tag and a multi-year delay on the project.
By opting in Loudoun agrees to pay 4.8 percent of the project’s construction costs, or approximately $270 million. That would equal to about $18 million in debt service each year. There are also operating costs to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in the amount of about $16 million per year.
During its debate in recent weeks, supervisors have stated they wanted to settle on a funding mechanism before the vote on the overall project to give residents and property owners a clear sense of the board’s intentions. However, any tax district must be implemented through an ordinance, which requires a public hearing and official adoption by the board, and could not occur before today’s vote.
The funding scenario includes a tax district with two different subsets—one within a half mile of each of the four stations that will impact Loudoun properties, Rt. 28, Dulles Airport, Rt. 606 and Rt. 772, and another for the remaining portion of the district. The inner core tax rate would be 20 cents per $100 of assessed value and the remainder of the districts would be tax rates up to 20 cents.
The tax district was created through the work of Supervisor Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run) and roughly encompass a one-mile radius around the planned rail stations. However, the boundaries are drawn such that they exclude virtually all the existing residential development in the area. According to county staff, only 37 parcels would remain. New residential development immediately around the Metro stations, like the planned Moorefield Station, Loudoun Station and Dulles World, would be included in the district in the future. Supervisors have noted that those residents would most benefit from the existence of rail and there would be plenty of time to prepare those residents for the additional tax.
This is a developing story. Check back for additional updates.