Thursday, July 5, 2012

Loudoun County Narrowly Approves Silver Line To Dulles

Though Silver Line rail service from Washington, D.C. to Dulles Airport was nearly put to death in the course of political posturing over a project labor agreement in right-to-work Virginia, through which the trains must pass, the last hurdle to construction of the second phase of the project was cleared Tuesday, July 3, when the all Republican Loudoun County Board voted 5-4 to approve participation in the project. When Virginia’s Republican Governor Robert F. McDonnell finally withdrew his threat to take back $150 million in state funds for the project over the project labor agreement he viewed as overly pro-union, in recent days he urged members of the Loudoun County Board not to stand in the way of construction of the rail line.

Loudoun County’s commitment of $270 million toward construction of the line will save air travelers a $60 taxi ride into D.C., as well as making airport jobs available to workers without cars to make the 46 mile daily round trip to the airfield. Loudoun County will set up a special tax district to fund its share of Silver Line costs, imposing the burden exclusively on owners of commercial developments and vacant land immediately surrounding the to be constructed commuter stations along its stretch of the Silver Line route. Almost all of the residential property in the county will be excluded from the new taxes.

Politicians from Virginia’s state government and from counties neighboring Loudoun are praising the formerly rural Loudoun for deciding to go suburban and participate in the development, rather than blocking commuter access to Dulles for citizens of the remainder of northern Virginia in order to preserve Loudoun’s rural atmosphere. Opponents of the Silver Line project still question whether commuter rail to Dulles will contribute anything to reduced traffic congestion in the region, and the wisdom of suburban Virginia entering into partnership with the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, local governments dominated by Democrats. Republican Board members voting in favor of participation, on the other hand, describe their action as “the vote of a generation, maybe of the century.”
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