Fairfax officials fear Silver Line funding in jeopardy

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

FAIRFAX, Va. – There’s more at stake for Northern Virginia in the General Assembly’s debate over how to pay for roads and public transit than just the price of gas or sales taxes.

For area commuters, the end result could take even more from their wallets if lawmakers eliminate funding for the second phase of the Metrorail extension to Dulles International Airport.

Construction continues on the first phase of the 23-mile Silver Line, which now towers over Tysons Corner. The line is set to open to passengers later this year.

But the fate of the $2.8 billion second phase depends largely on $300 million from the state plus funding from tolls collected on the Dulles Toll Road and local taxes.

Local leaders, like Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova, are trying not to think about what will happen if there’s no money from Richmond.

“It will go a long way towards making it affordable for us to be able to pay for the Silver Line, without having to ask so much of motorists driving in those (toll) lanes,” says Bulova of the $300 million.

Supervisor Jeff McKay says his biggest fear is that there will be no state funding to help pay for the second phase.

“It actually would affect what we can do everywhere else in the county, if we don’t get that money,” says McKay.

No deal in the General Assembly on a transportation reform bill could means skyrocketing tolls on the Dulles Toll Road to make up for the loss of that $300 million.

Fairfax leaders will have the chance to convince lawmakers of the importance of that financial help when they hold their annual legislative reception in Richmond Wednesday.

The full Senate will vote on a transportation funding reform bill later this week after rewriting the governor’s proposal. The latest version would restore and increase the gas tax, add a 1 percent fuel sales tax and allow localities to add another 1 percent tax to fuel.

Members of the Fairfax County Board were not enthusiastic about using yet another local tax to pay for transportation projects, even if the money was dedicated to local projects.

The House of Delegates has already approved the governor’s plan, which would eliminate the gas tax and replace it with an increase in the sales tax from 5 percent to 5.8 percent. The House is expected to reject the Senate bill setting up a small committee of delegates and senators to negotiate a final deal.

The General Assembly has until Feb. 23 to come up with a transportation funding plan.

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