As a resident of Loudoun County, I am uncomfortable with a partnership with MWAA to extend a metro line into Loudoun. According to the 12 May article in Washington Times by David Sharfinski, an inspector general from the U.S. Department of Transportation has found MWAA “rife with mismanagement, a glaring lack of transparency and lavish spending habits that have included thousand-dollar dinners and a $9200 plane ticket to Prague…” Can we really afford to be partnered with this organization and not know our money will be spent?
Please understand that I like the idea of metro coming into our county. But, the current planned arrangement is not beneficial to all the taxpayers of Loudoun. Large funding sources are required for the extension of metro into Loudoun County. The thought that those large sums of hard earned tax payer dollars might be mismanaged is not acceptable. However, even if we received assurances from MWAA to properly and frugally manage these large sums of money from this day forth, would metro be worth the cost to Loudouners? This is a basic business question: What is the return on the investment? Are we getting what we paid for? Will the extension bring prosperity to our county that would balance the massive costs? Will the extension solve or significantly lessen our transportation issues? These seem reasonable questions to ask.
The hallmark of a worthwhile transportation project is that it actually improves transportation and provides commuters and travelers with a quicker, cheaper, and/or more convenient journey while reducing congestion. From what I’ve read, a commuter’s travel time will actually increase if using the Silver Line. Furthermore, the information I’ve read did not indicate that the cost to ride the metro would be less expensive than the bus service we now have in Loudoun County.
But what may be most concerning is the question of how Loudoun will pay for a partnership with MWAA. According to an article in Richmond Times-Dispatch, tolls are expected to be a significant fundraiser for this over $2.8 billion project. It was reported that the current toll rate of $2.25 might need to double next year and be tripled by 2018 to $4.50 and $6.75 respectively. But, do the projections assume a steady increase of toll-road users over the next few years to fund the extension? What happens to the projections if drivers actually chose to use the Greenway less, due to prohibitive toll costs, instead of more? Will our traffic woes actually increase as more traffic bails to alternative routes to avoid paying those high toll costs? Some articles I read suggested just that – the higher tolls will likely force drivers off the toll road. Certainly, there will be some who would use the metro to commute into DC; however, others will not due to the increase in commute time/cost. But, if funding for the metro is depending upon tolls, what will happen if there is a significant loss in patronage?
It just does not seem wise for Loudoun County to partner with MWAA at this point in time. Taking on the massive burden of debt for the Metro extension into Loudoun County doesn’t seem to make good fiscal sense either. It is one thing to accept risk; it is quite another to gamble with our future and our tax dollars. If the homework/analysis has been done to address the aforementioned concerns…great. Be transparent, be accountable and share it with the public. If however the homework and analysis has not been done, the metro extension, as it is currently planned in Phase II, is nothing more than a slot machine that we continue to feed with our hard earned money but with little to no return on the investment.