By Carten Cordell | Virginia Statehouse News
ALEXANDRIA — As construction of Phase 2 of the Silver Line Metro extension awaits approval from Loudoun County, parking for its two proposed stations has become a hot potato passed back and forth between two project partners, each looking for ways to lighten their bottom lines.
The agreement moved the cost of those garages off the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority’s balance sheet and into the county's lap.
The agreement helped MWAA to shave $500 million off the Phase 2 price tag and freed Loudoun to pursue public-private partnerships with land developers who have an interest in the Phase 2 succeeding.
“Our board’s conditions on signing the memorandum were we would be willing to say we would use our best efforts, but we would only take it on if it wouldn’t affect our debt capacity or require local tax funding,” Ben Mays
, deputy chief financial officer of Loudoun County’s Department of Management and Financial Services
But no one knows how much the garages will cost.
Three environmental impact reports have been done on the project — prepared by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transport and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority — and with each adjustment the projected numbers of spaces have see-sawed:
For the Route 606 station, the number was 4,750 spots in 2002. Then the number dropped to 2,750 in 2004 and in a report released last week.
For the Route 772 station, parking numbers weren’t mentioned in the 2002 report. In 2004, 3,300 spaces were projected. In a report last week, the number dropped to 3,000.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority calculated in 2010 that it costs $25,000 to build a single space in a parking garage, meaning millions in costs to service the commuter demand.
To foot the bill for the garages, Loudoun is weighing public-private partnerships with land developers who have projects on the line.
One of those candidates could be Comstock Partners
, a Reston-based real estate development company. Comstock recently partnered with Fairfax County to build a 2,300-space garage
to service the Wiehle Avenue station on Phase 1 and also is building a 3 million-square-foot development stationed alongside the Route 772 station.
“We are strong supporters of Phase 2,” Comstock spokeswoman Maggie Parker said. “We have been zoned at Loudoun as a transit-oriented development for 10 years. We have been sitting patiently waiting, riding a tide, gladly paying our taxes, but looking forward to the arrival of the metro.”
Meanwhile, economic impact forecasts predict the Phase 2 will add 250,000 jobs and $269.5 million in revenue to Loudoun by 2040, according to a report
by the Robert Charles Lesser Co.,
, a Bethesda
-based real estate advisory firm.
That is not enough to pay for the costs of the line, said Rob Martin
, a former Federal Transit Administration
economist and current member of anti-rail group Loudoun Opt Out.
“With 5,000 parking spaces, you get 10,000 riders a day. You might get a little more than that,” he said. “They are not going to get any ridership to make it worthwhile. To spend all that money for 10,000 or 15,000 riders is laughable.”
Loudoun County will decide its involvement in Phase 2 by July 4.