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January 31, 2008

A big welcome to new sponsor Reston Limo, the area’s largest limo service company.  They have buses, van, and limos.  Call them for all your transportation needs!


That's the theory Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce president Bill Lecos says is floating around, given the disconnect between what Virginia and Congressional players were hearing from working staff until last week, then the sudden slamming of breaks by DoT Secretary Mary Peters and FTA Administrator James Simpson.  With John Wayne standing behind Bill in the pic below, we're thinking there could be some High Noon action soon.  Oh, wait, that would be Gary Cooper. 


Bill says some of the conspiracy theories include:  a Republican administration not having a warm spot for a Democratic Governor (we're shocked); the FTA thinking toll money should go only to asphalt; or the Feds wanting to coax private sources like Carlyle into buying the Toll Road (to pay for the rail extension).  Bill himself believes differently; he thinks it's more a matter of differing political philosophy than partisanship.  Whatever the case, he says the FTA's suggestion that the Airports Authority doesn't have experience handling projects of this magnitude—after after they've built two major airports—is "ridiculous."  And, pointing out that 80% of the Federal workforce uses Metro to get to work, and that the Federal contribution for the rail extension would be only 17% (compared to 80% for the original Metro), he's puzzled the FTA's not wrapping its arms around a project with such "high benefit and low cost." 


Bill wrestles traffic himself every day coming in from Seven Corners. He sees the future of Tysons and the Dulles Corridor riding on the rail.  He says Tysons has 43M SF of office, residential, and retail that is 100% auto dependent and that under current zoning another 20M SF could be built. He asks us to imagine adding 50% more cars to an already traffic-clogged area. Or, conversely, to imagine no more Tysons growth. "It changes how we grow; transportation drives land use."  In contrast, he says Arlington is a "textbook case" of smart growth, and he points to the Greenway and High Occupancy Transit Lanes as examples of successful public-private partnerships.


By coincidence, yesterday we ran into BOT prez Jim Dinegar and Dulles Corridor Rail Association president Patty Nicoson at an NVTC event.  Jim said the last minute FTA pull-out is "paralyzing," and says he's forced to wonder whether, if the Feds can bail on the rail project, they could also do so on the Purple Line and the Inter-County Connector.  He points out that over 40k people moved to the area in '07 and another 40k are expected this year:  "Just think if all those people have cars."  Patty, whose group has devoted itself to advocating the 23-mile Metro extension for nearly a decade, says confidently, "It's not over 'til it's over."


CONNOLLY COMMENT: We also chatted briefly on the phone with Fairfax County Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly, who thinks it's "unconscionable" that the FTA cut funding. "This project met every test put in front of it by the FTA."  And:  We have an opportunity to do the opposite of suburban sprawl.  If you look at any industrialized capital in the world, London, Berlin, Paris, Tokyo—all of them have their premiere airport connected by rail—except this one."  Gerry says he's not too surprised.  He says we have an EPA that doesn't believe in an environmental mission, a FEMA that doesn't believe in emergency preparedness, so why expect the FTA to believe in easing traffic congestion?  Hmm, we were going to ask if he's definitely running to succeed Rep. Tom Davis, but we think we have the answer.


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