Follow the Money

While transportation and land use reform crashed and burned in the General Assembly this week, the traveling train wreck called Rail to Dulles lumbers ahead unchecked. As part of a long-term effort to get our arms around the most expensive public works project in Virginia history, I assigned writer Peter Galuszka to describe the major interest groups at work and what their stakes are in the $4 billion (before cost overruns) Metro extension.

The job is so big — it requires a major investigative project beyond our resources — that we can provide no more than a pencil sketch of the various constituencies. But Peter has done a better job of pulling together the strands of this complex story than anyone else I have seen. You can read his work here:

Follow the Money
Rail-to-Dulles is the most expensive public works project in Virginia history. To understand the maneuvering over what gets built and who pays for it, start by untangling the web of special interests.
by Peter Galuszka

In the course of his reporting, Peter surfaced a key issue that has not, to my mind, received sufficient attention from the Mainstream Media (although a number of bloggers have touched upon it). The issue is peripheral to his article, so I raise it here: What will the project ultimately cost?

This question is crucial because Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s justification for overturning the tunnel option through Tysons Corner is that the extra $200 million threatened to torpedo federal funding. Rail to Dulles was already marginal as determined by the federal government’s cost-benefit methodology. The state could not afford to load any more costs into the project.

But consider: The $4 billion estimate, calculated in an an environmental impact study, is now four years old. Furthermore, while we have reasonably good estimates for Phase One of the project, the Phase Two estimates are very sketchy. Assuming that construction costs have been increasing at the rate of five percent annually, it may be more realistic to assume that the project could cost around $4.8 billion — and that’s not accounting for any mission creep, change orders, miscalculations or other surprises. We won’t know for sure until more definitive engineering/design work is completed.

If that back-of-the-envelope calculation is even in the ballpark, where is that $800 million going to come from? What would a $4.8 billion price tag do to the federal cost-benefit analysis? Could Rail to Dulles still could lose its federal funding? Would that scuttle the entire project? Perhaps Bacon’s Rebellion readers could shed some insight.

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26 responses to “Follow the Money”

  1. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Re Cost Overruns. Today (9/29), the chief economist for the Associated General Contractors released the latest “Construction Inflation Alert.” I offer the text of the release.

    “The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) today released its latest Construction Inflation Alert (CIA), and warned of an inflation rate for construction materials of six-to-eight percent, with periods of 10 percent increases possible. Construction segments like highways, that are most dependent on volatile prices for petroleum products, are particularly vulnerable to such price increases.

    “‘Private owners, public agencies that do budgeting and design, and contractors should all be aware that construction materials prices are likely to keep rising at a much faster rate than the three-to-four percent increase in the consumer price index (CPI) or broad producer price index (PPI) for finished goods,’ said AGC’s Chief Economist Ken Simonson. ‘If these increases continue, I’m concerned that the inflation rate for construction materials could be double the rate of overall inflation.’

    “Simonson continued, ‘The extreme cost increases or volatility of some construction inputs are proving troublesome to contractors because they have been sudden, extreme and unexpected.’

    “For instance, the price of steel soared 50-to-60 percent in the first half of 2004 after years of flat or falling prices. Steel prices declined slightly in late 2004 and most of 2005 but have risen again in 2006. Meanwhile, other metals costs, particularly copper, have jumped even more than steel mill products.

    “Two factors make construction vulnerable to above-average cost increases. Contractors are generally locked into fixed quantities of materials, and construction costs are vulnerable to transportation costs and bottlenecks. Unlike consumer electronics makers, for example, contractors cannot generally make a building or a highway smaller or lighter. Contractors also require physical delivery of large quantities of goods to a specific location, in many cases from around the world and any number of influences can drive up delivered costs.”

    If the Silver Line is such a good deal, why don’t the Tysons landowners build it themselves under the PPPA?

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar

    TMT, You’re dead on. I don’t think that the political system has absorbed the impact of construction inflation on the Rail to Dulles project. Once the Commonwealth has spent another $50 million or so on definitive engineering designs for the project, we’ll find that Rail to Dulles has escalated another $1 billion or more. The project will fail to meet the feds’ cost-benefit standards, and we’ll lose the federal funding. Then the whole project will implode.

    Now that the tunnel option is dead, killing the main reason I was for the project, I’m thinking we should go ahead and pull the plug. Substitute a congestion-pricing toll along the Dulles Toll Road with the goals of (1) maximizing throughput, (2) generating revenue to plow back into improvements in the Dulles Corridor, and (3) encouraging commuters to try alternatives such as telecommuting, carpooling and Bus Rapid Transit (perhaps funded by the toll).

  3. Q: Was going to the moon cost effective?

    A: No. Probably not.

    Q: Was it worth it?

    A: Yes, if you factor in all of the things that are hard to put a value on such as what it did for public morale and giving American’s a sense of, “Hey, if we put our mind to it we can accomplish anything”.

    For better or worse, I think Rail-to-Dulles falls into the category of being extremely difficult to justify because of the costs…..over a short period of time. Our generation will likely never see the benefits of building Rail-to-Dulles. It’s the next generation and those that follow who will truly benefit.

    To wait and delay the project will only make it that much more expensive. To make a long story short, the region will cease to grow and prosper if the rail line is not built.

    What will that cost us in a generation or two?

  4. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis


    Great job on the article by Peter, but I think that there are a lot more political donations out there than those that can be readily counted and attributed to the usual suspects. For example, the FEC database shows some $116,000 to various pols under Gerald Halpin’s name (see: My understanding is that donations are being made in the name of key employees, relatives, etc., which make it hard to track.

    Regardless, when it comes to building the rail extension, the fat lady hasn’t sung yet. Stay tuned as there are several surprises coming down the pike on this front, which make it rather unlikely that this boondoggle will ever get built.

  5. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    >>> To make a long story short, the region will cease to grow and prosper if the rail line is not built. <<< gold_h20: You obviously have sowallowed the rail advocates story hook, line, and sinker. Can I interest you in buying a used bridge?

  6. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Gold_H2O – “Grow and prosper” There are many people in NoVA who think that the area has grown more than enough. Our schools are overcrowded. In McLean, we still have 7th graders eating lunch before ten o’clock in the morning because of inadequate facilities. Have you ever gone to a Fairfax County park on a weekend? They are jammed. Our wastewater treatment system must be rebuilt if we add any growth beyond what is already contemplated by the Comprehensive Plan.

    Our traffic is terrible, and the Tysons I project alone would add more parking spaces than are at the Pentagon. They are for more automobiles.

    Gerry Connolly truly believes that obtaining contributions from developers means to his campaign chest and not for public infrastructure. He and his colleagues have approved target proffers for schools that include a discount for sticking teachers and students in trailers. He has no cash target for transporation, parks, libraries, police, fire or any other infrastructure needs other than schools, which are discounted. Guess who pays for the infrastructure in their real estate tax bills?

    Our real estate taxes are up nearly 90%, but I doubt that many incomes are by anything close thereto. Mr. Connolly and company have discouted land development and zoning service fees by more than $43 million dollars since fiscal 2003. Thus, the average citizen is worse off whenever anything is built.

    The Silver Line does not reduce traffic. Take a look at the table from the State that I published on my blog. Moreover, I read a reasonable and conservative estimate suggesting that Transit Oriented Development at Tysons would add twice as much traffic as the housing proposed for Loudoun County.

    Keep in mind that more than 50% of us in Metro Washington have nothing to do with the local economy. If West Group went bankrupt tomorrow, how would the typical federal employee be affected? Not at all.

    How about all of that income tax generated by growth in Fairfax County? Of course, it heads south to subsidize services and low real estate taxes throughout much of the rest of Virginia. Mark Warner’s tax hikes cost Fairfax County residents more than $107 million in 2005 and Fairfax County Schools received less than $14 million in new revenues. How many other counties pay real estate taxes as high as Fairfax County and still have school kids forced to eat lunch before 10 am? Growth and development is not our friend.

    The bottom line is that the Silver Line, as presently proposed, constitutes a taxpayer and toll road subsidy for West Group and other large Tysons Corner landowners. Building it will only provide them with financial windfalls, cause more overdevelopment and worse traffic, along with higher taxes and a declining quality of life.

    If rail is to be valuable, it should be taken away from Tysons Corner and be returned to the median of the Dulles Toll Road. Alternatively, the Tysons Corner landowners could build it themselves under the PPPA. Heck, they could even name it the Halpin Line if they paid for it. But they won’t and taxpayers and toll road users shouldn’t be forced to pay for it either.

    The residents of Fairfax County are tired of paying the costs of growth so that a select few can prosper.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    Have anyone looked at the number of new vehicles that will be produced each day? How about and estimated 500,000 new trips in Tysons Corner each day. How many of those trips are potential riders on the rail……….lets say, 200,000. Now Tysons Corner will only have 300,000 new vehicle trips per day. How many new trips can the roads in Tysons Corner take in today……….how about none.

    Even WMATA’s own bias study stated the rail will not relieve congestion.

    So Rail to Tysons Corner is a development project….not a congestion relief project.

  8. Ray Hyde Avatar

    After thirty years of experience, it is perfectly clear that Metro does not reduce congestion. What it does is allow the maximum tolerable congestion to continue unabated, and adds some more marginal capacity on top of that.

    It does nothing for carrying freight, and its only contribution to commerce is supplying workers and daytrippers: convention goers and stadium users.

    Anonymous is correct. It is not a congestion reliever and if anyone suggests it is we should make a habit of laughing in their face.

    That doesn’t mean Metro isn’t worth building, just that we don’t know how to value it.

    And we are being sold a bill of goods that won’t likely develop. Just yesterday I had a conversation with a longstanding shop owner on Wilson Blvd. She is located directly between two Metro stations, an easy walk to each.

    After fifteen years of this, would you say traffic is better, or worse? “Look out the window”, she said, “It’s worse, much worse, especially since all the high rises.” How many of your customers arrrive here because of Metro? “None.”

    I believe the primary value of rail to Dulles is to make Dulles a multimodal transportation center. Its primary purpose should be to link Dulles, Reagan, Downtown DC, and BWI with the fastest service possible, and that means the minimum number of intermediate stops.

    One way to do it is to use the medians, although this eliminates the TOD fantasy. If the developers want that, then they can build spurs off the main line that service pods of development. Even some of the existing stations should be rebuilt on sidings in order to allow express service and help eliminate the transit gridlock that is already occurring.

    If the train went nonstop from Dulles to West Falls church, and the stations in Loudoun were eliminated, for now, then the plan would cost much less. Dulles has experience in using vast parking lots and shuttle service to serve them, this could be tapped and expanded to provide commuter parking to feed the Metro.

    The whole point of trains is to travel intermediate distances at speed. The Metro extension project bastardizes that idea by trying to mix a subway system with a longer distance train. Even VRE is a mess. When I was riding VRE I would occasionally mis my train. Instead of waitng for the next one, I would just drive in.

    Invariably, I would arrive before the train I missed. And the out of pocket price was the same. With subsidy of course VRE was far more expensive. The only real difference to me was whether I was driving or snoozing.

    Metro would be far better off and serve the city better if it stayed in the city and nerby areas, and provided more stations.

    Then tie the Metro to longer rail spurs that center on places like Centerville, Manassas, Leesburg, Middleburg, and Warrenton. Even The Plains, Marshall, and Delaplane already have tracks, and once had service.

    Yes, many of the users in those places would drive to the station, but once downtown there would be enough stops and service to make the effort worthwhile. As it is, 90 percent of the city is inaccessible by Metro. Fix that first.

    As I see it the point of Gauzska’s article is that there are too many chefs in the kitchen, too may fingers in the pie. We are planning for Boullabaise and we are going to wind up with low tide in Boston Harbor.

    We have a committee designing a camel and we forgotten what it is we set out to do, which was originally a simple idea: rail to Dulles.

    Somebody pull the plug on this fiasco and do the toll road commuters a favor.

  9. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Here’s a prediction from Fairfax County. If the feds fund the Silver Line and if it goes through Tysons and not just down the Toll Road to Dulles, at some point in the future, a federal grand jury will be convened to investigate and, possibly, indict government and private sector people.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    Ken Reid here.

    Peter did a great job with this article. However, I dont want anyone to think I am suggesting the following since my name was mentioned in attribution prior to this statement:

    “…said Ken Reid, an activist and Town Council member in Leesburg. Creating a balance of residents and workers potentially would take tens of thousands of commuters off the strained highway arteries serving the region.”

    My position — and that of the evidence in the DEIS, SDEIS and Final EIS — is that this project takes NO significant amount of cars off the road to make a dent in congestion. Adding new density to Tysons, even if it were just retail and jobs density, would not shift folks to transit unless it’s coupled with sever parking restrictions.

    Also, the article should have noted that the project does NOT alleviate congestion, hence, it is not an “important link in the Northern Virginia transportation system,” as some rail fans are touting. So, whether it’s $4 billion or $6 billion, we’d be better off putting the money into highways and bus rapid trannsit.

    The only other oversights were saying Chris Walker is a Herndon developer — He’s actually based in Reston — and not mentioning the undue influence of former CTB Chairman Kenny Klinge in pulling all this together. Milliken was just ONE of the big behind-the-scenes honchos, Klinge was the other. But big deal!

    by and large, peter touched all the bases. He did the best article summarizing the various political influences on the Dulles project that I have ever seen and I’ve spent the last four years opposing Dulles Rail. I also was very pleased to see that he exposed Bechtel and West Group’s influence with the politicians. This article is MuST READING for anyone, and I wish the Post and other reporters would report periodically what Peter wrote.


    Ken Reid

  11. Gold_h2o Avatar

    The Skin’s game ran a little over so pardon the delay.

    Anyway, I’d like to modify my earlier comment.

    A) I agree with Ray. Rail-to-Dulles needs to be built so that Dulles Airport becomes, a “multimodal transportation center”. The Dulles project was started in the late 60’s, right? Anyway, I am 29, and it was before my time… are we done or aren’t we? IMO, Rail-to-Dulles is the next logical step in the evolution of the investment we made 30+ years ago.

    B) I don’t so much care how it gets there (Rail-To-Dulles), in terms of the route, as long as it gets there. Perhaps going right up the toll road is the best option…perhaps not…depends on whom you ask. There’s no doubt the development community is going to benefit under the current plan, but wouldn’t they also benefit by taking the other route?

    C) Phil, I’d love to buy a “used bridge”. 1) Can I make people pay a toll to cross the bridge? and…. 2) Where is the bridge located…i.e., what’s for sale…..The Woodrow Wilson Bridge or the “Back Creek Bridge”?…..Be careful what you sell…someone might be crazy enough to buy it and impose there own terms on using the bridge.

    D) No one, IMO, has been able to “quantify” what the cost of inactivity is going ”cost” people that live/work/play in NOVA. I would bet the cost of doing nothing far outweighs the cost of building what is CLEARLY needed.

  12. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Ken, Thanks for your comments. I apologize for inserting your comment during the editing process into an out-of-context paragraph, creating the impression that you agreed with certain statements that you do not, in fact, agree with. I have altered the original story to correct that error. The fault was mine, not the author’s.

  13. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Au H20, you raise a new perspective on the Rail to Dulles project — that it’s worthwhile based on the intermodal connction with Dulles Airport. Two comments:

    (1) That’s definitely a bonus — for the Washington Metropolitan Statistical Area as a whole. If that’s the case, the region needs to share in the funding of the project, at least to some nominal degree.

    (2) The benefit of a multi-modal connection to Dulles should be subject to the same Return on Investment criteria as any other transportation investment. Just because it’s “multi-modal” does not automatically sprinkle holy water on it and make it sancrosanct. Multi-modal investments need to justify themselves just as ordinary transportation investments do.

  14. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Well.. just back from a couple days of canoeing… on the Youghiogheny River …

    Ray’s suggestion if essentially an intermodal vision… with some common-sense thrown in for novelty.

    We have Metro pursuing THEIR own vision and VDOT pursuing THEIR own vision and neither of them like to talk about cost-effectiveness and accountability and yes.. with both roads and Metro – developers know opportunities when they see them…

    How many times have we heard developers suggest that they’d pay for new interchanges.. in exchange for….

    so no suprise with Tysons but it’s twofold as stated:

    As Ray and others said – we seem not able to quantify the value of Metro with respect to it’s cost. In other words, how much would an “efficient” Metro cost?

    I don’t want to muddy the waters here but don’t we have the same issue with roads?

    New roads and especially new interchanges open up “opportunities” for development also and how does one quantify the “benefit” of a new road? People claim congestion-relief but do they measure it any more or less than Metro.

    So .. if Metro will not reduce congestion … “in the region”… tell me the last time a new road was judged the same criteria.

    What we assume with roads is that when they open.. and we see a bunch of cars.. that it “proves” the road was needed and yet.. we won’t judge Metro that way. Why?

    Take the 4 Billion for Tysons and tell me how many miles of road you could build for that to achieve the same purpose as Tysons – where you’re going to be acquiring very expensive properties for it’s right-of-way. Then once you’ve done that – tell me how much that new road will reduce regional congestion… put a number on it like folks want for Tysons.

    TMT – help us out here – Someone in the very front of the EIS there is a Purpose and Need Paragragh. Can you replicate it here or post a URL to it so we call can see what the stated Purpose and Need is?

  15. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Gold H20 – Why should we spend money (taxpayers’ money) to build things that don’t produce results? That’s the problem with transportation in Virginia. The system is broken. It needs to be fixed before it is feed more taxpayer money.

    For example, why should people living in Loudoun County pay higher tolls to go to work in order to build the Silver Line, when the Silver Line does NOT improve traffic congestion? Similarly, why should we pay higher (fill in the blank) taxes or fees to build roads, when those roads do not produce the higest return on investment? Why should people in Fairfax County pay more, when the BoS does NOT even have a target proffer for transportation?

    The system is broken and corrupt. Transportation in Virginia is not about moving people and goods safely and efficiently. It’s about gaming the system so that a few can obtain windfalls, while everyone else pays. No one has ever been able to explain why this is fair and just. The silence is telling.

    Virginia needs reform so that the taxpayers’ money is put to its best use. Perhaps, there is a way to build the Silver Line in a cost-effective manner that also improves traffic congestion. But what is on the table does not do that. Even the project’s supporters have admitted that this project is about land use — it enables a few landowners to make billions on the backs of the public. If the existing proposal to build the Silver Line through Tysons Corner is a good use of money, why aren’t the Tysons Corner landowners proposing to build it under the PPPA?

    Take a shot at answering these questions. Maybe you do see something that I don’t. Perhaps, you have seen some figures or other data that have not been made public. If so, please share.

  16. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Larry – here is a link to the “purpose and need” section of the final EIS for Dulles Rail that was submitted in December 2004.

  17. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Thanks TMT!

    There are 44 pages to the P&N and they do VDOT justice….if folks get my drift.

    The operative words(in my opinion):

    (Page 2) –

    * The ability to expand roadway capacity in the corridor ….

    * local bus service is also hampered by traffic congestion.

    * a need to reduce auto emissions in the region to meet federal air quality
    standards ….

    Does any disagree with these statements?

    For those who oppose Tysons, what is the alternative?

    is it essentially.. what is known as “no build” (anything)?

    I’ll post the “No-build” in the next post …just to keep these things from being too wordy…

  18. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: EIS

    so I went to the alternatives considered section to see what was said about “no Build” and there is some rich irony here…”

    “In November 2002, the transportation sales tax referendum that was put to the Northern Virginia voters
    failed to pass, making funding questionable for some of the projects previously included in long-range
    plans. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the counties were forced to rethink their
    long-range plans, and some of the projects included in the Draft EIS No Build Alternative are no longer
    expected to be implemented by 2025.”

    So they’re saying that voters have already spoken about building more roads and the answer was NO….

    they’re hoisting the road folks on their own petard….in a way…

    and I guess the pro-road folks are saying.. no… not local taxes… STATE taxes….for NoVa…

    ain’t this fun?

  19. Gold_h2o Avatar

    TMT –

    I agree that the system is broken. Reform is needed at all levels. That said, I still believe the cost of doing nothing (and waiting for the GA to make reforms) far outweighs the cost(s) of building what is required to improve transportation in The Commonwealth…..particulalry in NOVA. Additionally, many of the reforms proposed by the HOD look good on paper….but what if they are not the magic bullet eveyone hopes they are?

    If more rail is not the answer to reducing congestion then that leaves us with the more roads option. That being the case, Fairfax County could someday have more paved roads than Los Angeles. Do you want that?

    Also, what is a good/adequate return on investment? Is reducing congestion the only variable by which a project should be based? Many transportation projects depend on several things to occur in order to be fully justified…..Rail-to-Dulles is one of them. As a stand alone project it is hard to justify the costs.

    My hope is that a combination of the three R’s (roads, rail, and reform) will turn the ship around and improve life for everyone.

  20. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I don’t think I’m alone when I feel discomfort with the idea that we need “more” to “improve” and beyond that .. specifics are somewhat of a black art.

    I realize that we do schools the same way but at least with SOLs and NCLB – we have a way of comparing results with funding.

    Perfect? heck no… but better by scads than “more” to “improve”….

    This is a Perfect Storm for middle America – you know the guys who do not have enough money to even think of making a killing on Wall Street….

    … don’t have enough money for their kids college much less their parents prescription drugs.. and the government wants “more” to “improve”.

    I don’t think it’s going to fly…but then if I was good at predictions.. I’d be too busy to sling words in a blog.


  21. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Gold-H2O – I understand the logic of your argument. It might be more acceptable to me (& probably to others), if the Fairfax County BOS, for example, would reject rezoning requests when they find that they would have an adverse impact on the adverse impact on public health, welfare and safety. See the Gregory v. Board of Supervisors of Chesterfield County case. When one is stuck deep in a hole, it’s time to stop digging. The BOS has much more authority to reject rezoning requests than it pretends. Elected officials from both political parties have criticized county supervisors for failing to exercise the powers that they have on land use.

    It might be possible to develop a plan for the Silver Line that is both cost-effective and provides some modicum of traffic relief. But that would involve the BOS refusing to amend the Comprehensive Plan to permit all the desired density at Tysons.

    Similarly, it might be possible to build some roads (really, add capacity to some roads) that would improve congestion. But the CTB won’t do that. Absent reform, it would probably fund roads that would make traffic even worse, while ignoring improvements (adding reverse direction lanes, improving intersections, etc.).

    NoVA has reached, or is close to reaching, a tipping point where it is no longer as attractive a place to live or work. Business leaders are bemoaning the fact that they cannot easily attract people to live here & I suspect that some businesses are not expanding here. If true, those of us who remain are not as likely to see our situations continue to deteriorate. But if, we keep on a course of business as usual, building something here or there (be it roads or rail), those who profit through further development are likely to keep the crowds coming. They can argue “see, it is improving.” That, in turn, means further deterioration in the quality of life and higher and higher taxes.

    I suspect, however, that once we reach this tipping point and ordinary people of all political persuasions continue to reach a tipping point where they demand land use restrictions, we will see real change. We’ll see adequate public facilities laws, development impact fees, serious telecommuting and parking controls. Businesses, in turn, will also begin to move some good-paying jobs to places such as Fredericksburg, Warrenton, Winchester, etc., and a concomitant reduction in traffic volumes. Every good new job does not need to be in Fairfax County, especially when many of the people who will fill them live far away from Fairfax,

    This place will never be an easy place to live, but it doesn’t need to get worse.

    Regardless of political affiliation, I suspect that a candidate who proposed APFO and mandatory impact fees could easily beat a candidate who proposed more revenues for VDOT without land use restrictions.

  22. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I suspect that a candidate who proposed APFO and mandatory impact fees could easily beat a candidate who proposed more revenues for VDOT without land use restrictions.

    Some localities in Va already have the ability to assess Traffic Impact Fees. In fact Fairfax has had that ability for quite some time and never used it as I recall.

    But TMT – do you really think the Wash Metro Area is THAT different from LA, or Houston, or (name your favoriate urban area) in terms of traffic, congestion, quality of life, etc?

    Companies don’t choose between … say between Chicago or Chicagos exurbs necessarily no more or less than they might choose NoVa exurbs over NoVa.

    I don’t see companies leaving the NoVa area any more than I see them leaving LA or Chicago or Houston – which all have similiar issues.

    Let’s turn this around and ask if there is something unique about NoVa, Fairfax, et al that make them DIFFERENT from other urban and urbanizing areas that would give credence to the idea that a “tipping point” is fast approaching?

    What drives the Wash Metro Area in terms of jobs is, in fact, the Fed Government which draws a tremendous number of private companies who MUST locate their businesses near to their government partners.

    The way to kill this would be to get Harry Byrd in WVA to have the Pentagon moved to Charleston or some such.

    As long as the Pentagon and it’s contractors are in the NoVa area… ditto Fort Belovoir, Quantico, et al – I don’t think that “tipping point” exists because the jobs won’t go away no matter how bad the traffic and congestion gets. People will adapt.

    The KEY is providing options for mobility. The purpose of Tysons and rail is NOT to cure congestion or even make a dent in it but rather to provide better mobility in the future that allows people an option from getting from point a to point b even when the roads are gridlocked.

    Ever notice what happens to Metro when we get a snow storm?

    Think of traffic congestion like something tied to good or bad weather where if there are no alternate options everything DOES shut down but if there ARE alternate options then some level of functionality still exists.

    Metro is not about relieving traffic congestion – never was no more than subways in other cities are about reducing traffic congestion.

    If you are in the NYC area and you need to get from point a to point b – you make a quick calculation.. subway or car then you take the best option.

    That is where the Wash Metro area is evolving towards in my view….

    I simply don’t think the Wash Metro area will “shut down” because of traffic congestion any more or any less than LA, or Houston or NYC or Chicago has shut down because of congestion.

  23. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Larry, I owe you some clarification. I did not mean to suggest that NoVA will dry up. This will always be a crowded and busy place. So is California. However, because of high taxes, excessive and ineffective regulation, high cost of living and a lower quality of life, quite a few businesses have left California or not expanded there. Many talented business operators have moved to Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, etc. Is California better off because of those changes? Reasonable people can differ.

    So far, NoVA has been the place to be, but I sense that, for many of the same reasons, the luster is begining to tarnish. That doesn’t mean Southwestern VA will soon start sending its money to support services in NoVA. But as costs continue to grow and the quality of life continues to decline, will people continue to accept transfers here? Will some smart people begin to realize that they can provide services to the federal government with techies located in Tennessee? Will Uncle Sam respond positively to the lower prices offered by the Tennessee companies?

    I once worked for a company that sought to consolidate its network operations in a couple of big cities from scattered operations around its territory. The skilled techs were offered higher wages and moving expenses, but many of them simply decided that life in the big city was not worth it. Could this be occuring in NoVA?

    NoVA is a great place to be until one starts mixing family and work. Each year it becomes harder to do.

    Again, NoVA will continue to be a hot spot, but it is not immune from high costs and a deteriorating quality of life.

  24. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    TMT – let me try something on to see how it might fit.

    The charm/attraction/appeal of NoVa was that one could find a decent salaried job AND find a decent home near by to live life and raise kids.

    As NoVA grew – it grew beyond it’s infrastructure at did so at a pace that “catching up” is a major challenge with schools, water/sewer triaged to be a higher priority than roads.

    Most more mature urbanized areas went through this same progression – to the point where some businesses have left those cities to find better/cheaper digs but many more remained behind.

    Further those more mature areas morphed into places where a home on a 1/4 acre lot was something the average person could no longer afford unless they drove 50-100 miles.

    For instance, the New York commuting area now includes North Eastern Pennsylvania where folks take 2 hr commutes one way OR get on a commuter rail.

    Is there some reason to believe that NoVa would transition any differently than their more mature counterparts have?

    I’m not saying such a thing would be right, bad, good, indifferent but rather than I’ve yet to see a new “wheel” being invented where NoVA might be expected to grow/get bigger much differently.

    Wrong? Comments?

  25. Ray Hyde Avatar

    My apologies to Mr. Galuszka for mis-spelling his name. I meant to double check it and didn’t.

    I think he did a good job of outling the players.

  26. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Those people that travel from Eastern PA take two hours to get to work even if they use commuter rail. New York has the most rail commuter system, the most users of that system and the longest average commuting time in the country.

    When New Yorkers choose cab or subway, they mostly do it on price, and maybe safety.

    The fact that subway is an option means that it is in addition to street traffic, and not instead of.

    As for snow storms, doesn’t Metro frequently shut down because of snow?

    I agree that NOVA will be whatever it turns out to be. I don’t agree that other areas should be highly restricted just to make it more than it would be otherwise.

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