LaRock Targets MWAA, Dulles Rail, Mass Transit


Dave LaRock

by James A. Bacon

Del. David A. LaRock, R-Hamilton, the man who beat legislative veteran Joe May in the Republican primary last year, comes to the General Assembly promising to represent conservative values and principles. Judging by the bills he has submitted so far, he will be true to his word. Aside from one bill providing tax credits for private schoolers and another fine-tuning the transfer of firearms, he has focused mainly on transportation issues affecting his Loudoun County constituents. In effect, he has positioned himself as a champion of Dulles Toll Road commuters and scourge of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), the Rail-to-Dulles Metro project and mass transit generally.

His bills would:

  • Direct the General Assembly to petition Congress to impose tolls on the Dulles Access Highway, which provides direct access between the Capital Beltway and Washington Dulles International Airport, and apply the revenues to reducing the tolls on the Dulles Toll Road that runs parallel to it.
  • Forbid the state from contributing any more funds to the Rail-to-Dulles project until MWAA implements the toll on the access road and also agrees to apply 50% of any revenue from the sale of federal land for non-aviation purposes toward the offset of Dulles Toll Road tolls.
  • Limit allocation of transportation funds to mass transit by the Commonwealth Transportation Board to 25% of total allocations to the Northern Virginia construction district.
  • Eliminate the ability of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to spend discretionary revenues on mass transit projects not included in the regional transportation plan.

Many Loudoun commuters who rely upon the toll road are frosted that under the terms of the Phase 2 financing agreement for Dulles Rail roughly half the funds are coming out of their pockets. They will pay more in tolls than the people riding the Metro will pay in fares, while people driving to Dulles on the parallel access road will pay nothing at all. This is the issue that propelled LaRock to the General Assembly.

Bacon’s bottom line: Loudoun commuters are being sodomized, metaphorically speaking, by Phase 2 of Dulles Rail. They will pay billions of dollars over the next three-to-four decades not only to maintain and upgrade the toll road but to subsidize Metro rail service to the airport. If they are asked to pay, it is hard to concoct a rationale for not asking users of the parallel access road to pay, too. The bills aren’t likely to go anywhere — MWAA isn’t asking for more state funding for Dulles Rail, so it has no reason to go along — but LaRock does stand on the moral high ground.

His crusade to limit spending on Northern Virginia mass transit is harder to justify. Once upon a time, when the majority of transportation funding came from the gasoline tax, one could argue that motorists shouldn’t be asked to subsidize mass transit. But the McDonnell transportation tax deform of 2013 reduced the contribution of the gas tax and eliminated any pretense that transportation taxes are a “user fee.” A large majority of transportation revenues will come from the sales tax and other non-fuel taxes — in other words, from the general taxpayer. Allocating tax dollars to roads is just as capricious and political as allocating them to mass transit.

Placing arbitrary caps on the allocation of state dollars, as LaRock proposes, is not the solution. Given the political reality that returning to a user fee is not in the cards, what we should do instead is devise a rigorous methodology for calculating Return on Investment on all proposed transportation improvements, of whatever type, and fund the projects with the highest return. Public policy should be agnostic as to whether the money goes to roads, mass transit, traffic light synchronization, incident management, Transportation Demand Management or other strategies for coping with congestion. Let’s make sure we get the most bang for the buck.

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53 responses to “LaRock Targets MWAA, Dulles Rail, Mass Transit

  1. I agree that the folks using the DTR are getting screwed. And I think any politician that defends it or makes excuses for it does so at great political risk and justifiably so.

    but I have to say that VDOT seems unable to find Toll Road cash cows to fund other transportation even as others seem to be able to focus on them.

    VDOT doesn’t even seem to want to know where roads might have a strong enough need that tolls would be easy. They start off assuming no toll even for roads like the western Dulles road.

    and Bacon is right about transit – who knows if McDonnell actually purposely made transportation funding a general fund source on purpose
    or just fell into it to find more money for transportation but only 15% of Va transportation revenues now come from the gas tax.

    tolls are obviously the next best (I think the best) user fee…. and it might be interesting to compare toll road revenues with gas tax revenues now that NoVa has 495 hot lanes and I-96 HOT lanes next year and Hampton tunnels next year.

    the other thing – it ‘s dang hard to figure out from the percent gas tax how much like an area like NoVa is generating in gas taxes since that tax is collected not at the pump but at the “rack” (wholesale distributors) but there is no such obscurities with the sales tax as every county gets 1% in sales taxes for the county and another 1% for the schools so we know quite precisely how much the sales tax is generating for transportation in a region.

    It won’t take much I suspect for NoVa to assert than all of the sales tax collections belong to transit.

  2. Bacon, Bacon, Bacon ….

    Save your county vs county histrionics for the Richmond area. Up here in NoVa (which you love to write about but never have understood) we don’t play county vs county games. We also make a reasonable attempt to understand geography. For example, the idea that that Dulles Toll Road is somehow focused on “Loudoun commuters” is bunk. I spent 14 years commuting on the Dulles Toll Rd and never left Fairfax County. If Loudoun County commuters are being metaphorically sodomized by the Dulles Toll Road what is happening to Fairfax County commuters? Google Maps, grasp the concept.

    In addition, here is a simple test that David LaRock seems unable to pass:

    The Rail to Dulles project is:

    a) A wholly owned subsidiary of the MWAA
    b) A regional transportation initiative for Northern Virginia
    c) Evidence that NoVa is fast making Richmond even more irrelevant

    Your correct answer is b)

    The MWAA is the program manager for the Rail to Dulles project because Virginia’s state government (under Tim Kaine) awarded the MWAA that contract. Attempts by people like Dave LaRock to make the MWAA out as the bad guy might play in the gin sloshed back rooms of the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond but they don’t hold water with most voters up here. If you or LaRock had ANY intellectual courage you would insist that the Virginia General Assembly put tolls on a lot of Northern Virginia roads to pay for the Northern Virginia transportation initiative known as Rail to Dulles instead of making up absurd ideas about MWAA selling non-aviation assets or talking about sodomizing Loudoun County commuters.

    Face it – the General Assembly doesn’t have the balls or the brains to do the right thing – which is to put tolls on lots of roads until the funds for RTD are raised and then take the tolls down.

    LaRock is just another Tea Party throwback trying to affix blame everywhere but where it belongs – squarely on the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond. His attitude cost the RPV the governorship, the lieutenant governorship, the attorney general and effective control of the state senate. It’s hard to imagine incompetence playing out any faster than that.

    Finally, you are the paragon of “user pays”. You are the paragon of demanding that those living in exurbia pay their full location variable costs. What exactly do you consider Loudoun County if not exurbia? If, as you claim, the exurbaites are getting away with fiscal murder why would it bother you for the state to get back some of those subsidies you insist exist?

    Now, Jim – be honest … when you took my little quiz, did you answer c)?

    • Don, Don, Don, If you want me to say that Fairfax commuters are getting sodomized as well, I’ll be happy to. They are. But the focus of my post was Dave LaRock and Loudoun County.

      • Is it unfair to only “tax” the Dulles Toll Road commuters? Yes. Who should change this? The General Assembly. What should they do? They should erect long running but ultimately temporary tolls on many NoVa roads.

        Beyond that – if people don’t want to pay the Dulles Toll Road tolls they should take alternate routes. Yes, it will take longer to crawl down Rt 7 for example. However, this was exactly the same argument made by the Beltway HOT lane lovers – if you don’t want to pay for fast transit then take free roads at a slower speed.

        Why is the logic for the outrageously expensive Beltway HOT lanes not applicable to the extremely expensive proposed Dulles Toll Rd?

  3. batter up Bacon!

  4. wait! how can you be sodomized if it is a free market transaction?

    I’d say that the victims do have to agree…

    why can’t VDOT figure out how to do roads this way?

    • Bingo, and if “toll fees are going to be more than rail fees” then use the rail, or spend 90 minutes on Route 7.

      This idea that we have to help the exurbs where people flew away laughing that they could afford a 10 bedroom mansion, now get to work 30 miles closer in, and that is a duty to the rest of us, is absurd.

      Fairfax got plenty screwed by having to widen route 50, widen 28, widen all sorts of stuff for Loudoun who didn’t have to pay for any of it; so excuse me when I find LaRock’s complaints absurd.

      By the way you should know LaRock is a home builder out in Hamilton (the source of all that exurban traffic) and also an ardent proponent of using all of our money to build the stupid outer beltway (which will help him sell more homes).

      • I forgot to add

        TAX PIG!!! *eye roll*

        • TE, anyone can have a blog and you are certainly entitled to your views. But you also seem to hold every other engineer who has ever worked on the Silver Line or Tysons transportation projects as totally incompetent and that you have the sole truth. And yet you constantly refuse to address their studies and reports. You never address their calculations. You merely reject them in contempt.

          You weren’t involved in the planning for Tysons. You never testified to the Planning Commission or the Board of Supervisors? Why not? If you truly felt the County, VDOT, the Feds and the community groups were wrong, why didn’t you say so during the planning and decision-making process?

          I think you avoid the studies and reports because you cannot rebut them with anything than mockery. Why should the other engineers be ignored and you believed? Writing a blog doesn’t do that.

          Here’s a February 2009 presentation by Cambridge Systematics.

          On page 45, the slides show the recommendations, based on increased auto traffic, that “To overcome operational problems, two collector-distributor lanes on each side of the DTR will likely be required.” and “An additional lane on DTR westbound will likely be necessary.” Show us why that or other conclusions are wrong. Why should you be believed and not the many other engineers? I think this is a reasonable question that is not answered by just saying you are right and they are wrong.

      • TE – Fairfax County taxpayers did not pay extra to widen Route 50 or Route 28. Route 50 has been financed like any other road – state transportation fund revenues and federal money. 75% of the costs for widening Route 28 in both Fairfax and Loudoun Counties are being paid by commercial landowners who formed a special tax district. The rest is paid from state and federal transportation funds.

        And let’s be honest about Dulles Rail. US DOT changed its funding standards for heavy rail. Dulles Rail would not pass, so Senator John Warner got it grandfathered under the old standards. It still did not pass the old lenient funding standards. It was too costly for the amount of traffic it removed from the roads. (Hell, the 2004 final EIS showed virtually no improvement in traffic congestions because, the added density in Tysons and Reston would more than undo any reductions in traffic due to Dulles Rail.) All the politicos in Virginia, both Rs and Ds, lobbied the Bush administration, which finally caved and agreed to federal funding.

        But only the landowners’ and federal share of the ever-increasing costs for Dulles Rail were fixed. The state’s were not. Tim Kaine’s solution was to give control of the DTR and the ability to impose tolls to MWAA. Even Kaine knew WMATA was too incompetent to build the Silver Line. MWAA has then increased tolls and proposed further increases. The toll increases – both existing and planned – have enraged many drivers, from Fairfax, Loudoun and other places. Joe May was in bed with the Tysons landowners. LaRock entered the primary and beat May. LaRock won the general election and is trying to bring some relief to those who elected him.

        There is not a single study that shows Dulles Rail will bring any traffic relief. It’s all about allowing well-connected landowners to add massive density, density that will make traffic congestion worse. That’s what every study shows. I realize you don’t believe any studies, but with all due respect, you are the outlier. I’ve talked with dozens of engineers. None have argued Dulles Rail reduces traffic congestion. It triggers density, which, in turn, adds more.

        • I agree that Metro will allow landowners to add density, however let’s look what that means. Why do landowners want to add density? Because there is a demand for it; because a lot of people see a denser, more urban Tysons as desirable and improving quality of life, and will come to Tysons to work, live and for entertainment. Ultimately, a lot of people benefit from this. Developers are a link in the chain, an important link surely, but not the end-purpose.

          • Has anyone ever reviewed the Tysons documents? They show SOV is and will continue to be the main transportation mode to, from, and through Tysons. They show a need for billions in road improvements. They show a need to widen the DTR by as many as three to five lanes. They show a need to construct an additional outer loop lane on the Beltway from Route 7 to I-66. They show that, if GMU’s growth projections hold, even with rail, other transit, high quality mixed development, the enhanced road network (Routes 7, 123, the DTR and the Beltway) will fail each and every day by c. 2030. Once Tysons reaches 84 msf, the road network fails. Beyond that point, each new automobile trip must be canceled by a non-auto trip.

            The County knows this. The State knows this. The Tysons landowners know this. The surrounding communities know this. But the so-called “believers in ‘smart growth'” deny it. Just once, I’d like them to address the details in the Tysons documents. Smart Growth is not magic. Growth in Tysons means more traffic. And if failure of the Beltway, the DTR, Route 7 and Route 123 is not “crushing increases in traffic,” what is?

          • Tysons Engineer

            No I just run a website which discusses every single decision, project, and development in Tysons. Never heard of these “reports you speak of”

            Time will tell is all I will say. A lot of transportation engineers said the same about Arlington, cause unlike me, they simple read the manual and report what the book says to report.

          • Well put markrcca! There is far more at play here than just traffic congestion. The whole land use philosophy of NoVa’s future is bound up in the RTD project.

  5. Congestion is a result of too many cars. When the capacity of a road is exceeded the throughput drops. When the Interstate Highways system first started, roads when from a single lane to a double lane where “autobahn” rules proscribed the right lane was for travel and the left was for passing. In many states, one could legally go 10mph above the posted limit when passing. The capacity of roadways increased substantially. With 3 and 4 lanes, no one follows the autobahn rules anymore. The middle lane has become the drone on a cell phone lane, the makeup application zone, and the breakfast burrito zone. The implication for traffic is that the incremental increase in road capacity diminishes for each added lane.

    The only practical approach to easier commutes is to have fewer cars and the Silver Line will do that. It may not do enough but it should help.

    • @ Stan.

      Where do you get your information that the Silver Line will result in fewer cars on the road? Every study, from the Mark Warner administration’s EIS for Dulles Rail – to Fairfax County’s 527 TIA from 2009 – to the ongoing Fairfax County CTIAs (consolidated TIAs) show added density at Tysons will result in crushing increases in automobile traffic. Let’s get real.

      But I agree with your comments on driver behavior. It’s spot on.

      • @TMT – do you think the subway system in NY (or Paris or London) work differently than NoVa in terms of what they provide in mobility?

        do you think – a NYC without a subway would be “better”?

        do you think a NoVa without subway would be “better”?

        how would the people who use the subway get around NoVa without METRO?

        not adversarial questions… more trying to understand it.

        • “added density at Tysons will result in crushing increases in automobile traffic”

          Building a metro doesn’t mean we can add an unlimited number of buildings in Tysons. Certainly, construction in Tysons that follows the Metro has to be zoned carefully, so that we don’t get “crushing increases in automobile traffic”. It’s the same as with building any city area.

          • Have you examined the Tysons documents? The approved density will create sufficient traffic increases such that, at 84 msf (today we are c. 47 msf), the DTR, the Beltway, Route 7 and Route 123 fail. Complete gridlock. How is that not “crushing increases in automobile traffic”?

          • Tysons Engineer

            Sigh, a lay man reading transportation documents is cute.

            Failure in terms of roads (ie LOS) is the most bogus element ever created, promoted to help continue to fund road builders and continue to line pockets of the dept of transpo employees.

            By those measures are you aware 80% of the roads in Fairfax “fail”

            My god! Total catastrophe, I think i saw zombie hordes eating a small child last night. End of days! cats and dogs living together!

            *eye roll*

          • Adding density on the Rosslyn – Ballston corridor did not add crushing increases in automobile traffic. Did a grid street plan help? Yes. However, I can’t think of any major arteries in the R-B corridor that had to be expanded. Rt 66 was connected from DC to the beltway but that was back in 1982 as I recall.

        • Larry, the Silver Line is different from the other Metrorail lines, in that it is focused on three points on a spur – Tysons, Reston and IAD, rather than on downtown D.C. There is no hub and spoke on these three points. The Silver Line will ultimately carry large numbers of passengers. But since this is only a spur line (that serves people in just two directions), many people cannot use the Silver Line to get to and from the three points on a time-effective basis. While some will use other forms of transit, most will drive their cars. That’s what the studies show. That’s why Tysons, Reston and IAD need billions in more roads. That’s why the roads fail. I’m not making up stuff. I’m just reiterating what the studies that cost millions of dollars show.

          • Tysons Engineer

            Studies created by departments and consultants hopeful to get the final construction design contracts for those billions in roads. Its odd how you think that is unbiased and don’t see the systematic problem in that.

            Here’s a shocker for you too Atlanta DOT engineers also think Atlanta needs more roads, despite Atlanta having more pavement per capita than any other major US city, and still a top #3 traffic problem.

      • Lack of understanding on a correct base model. It will result in fewer cars and fewer VMT compared to a system without the silver line in place. You aren’t starting your base model with standard growth, you are starting with zero sum.

        Feel free to explain to me how an area that has grown at tens of thousands of people per year will suddenly stop growing at all, and that THAT is the model we should compare the silver line with or without to.

  6. he’s an exurb developer?

    holy whack a mole!

    why didn’t Bacon say that when he was speaking of sodomy?

  7. Most major cities in the world – have Mass Transit and most top tier cities have METRO-type subway/rail.

    Yet in the U.S., we have a political movement that considers Transit to be a subsidized service that does not pay for itself…

    and then you wonder if such folks if they really had the opportunity would actually get rid of transit and shut down METRO and you get the feeling they would not but instead they will undermine it by trying to short-fund it.

    in other words, purposely inflict damage on it .. – as opposed to fixing/reforming and advocating a sustainable source of funding.

    it would seem to be the worst way to operate… but I supposed it describes something of which there is unified support for – there are strong supporters and there are strong opponents… and when someone runs for office who is overtly opposed to transit – they can easily get elected if there is no credible opponent.

    How MWAA came to be in charge of cash cow toll road as the primary funding source for METRO expansion … something I will agree is bad/wrong, etc.. but what was the viable alternative funding path?

    This is not the only example of something going forward the only way it could and not a good way!!

    But here is something that might ensnare McAuliffe … because he has promised to make tolls less onerous to Hampton citizens while as far as I’ve heard no such complementary action for Dulles folks.

    and the interesting thing about the Hampton tolls is that the contract with the private company that will build and operate is already set so what McAuliffe is basically asking (I think) is for VDOT to use state (or Hampton) transportation money to buy down those tolls. If you reduce those tolls, the money has to come from somewhere because the cost of the tunnels is fixed and the payback period already established by the private company financial structuring..

    so this fellow LaRock, would he attempt legislatively, something similar with the DTR/Metro issue and ask McAuliffe/other GA members with help for a similar deal OR would he just attempt to get rid of the connection between DTR and METRO?

    Would he have support for that from citizens in Loudoun? Would he have support from legislators elsewhere in Va who are opposed to tolls generally?

    McAuliffe might ultimately regret getting involved in a “little” in tolls if he gets drawn into other toll controversies.

    • Larry, the attacks on the Silver Line are not attacks on mass transit. They are attacks on heavy rail. Most of the antagonists are strong supporters of BRT with separate RoW in many areas. The Silver Line has never passed a single funding standard – even when it was grandfathered under the old, weaker federal standard. Heavy rail was approved because it permitted massive increases in density for key, connected landowners. Landowners in the 1/4 mile radius from the four Tysons rail stations have received gigantic increases in density (unlimited FAR, subject only to certain total msf caps) and accompanying financial windfalls. And the bulk of the costs for enabling these windfalls (the Silver Line) are being paid for by DTR users. They pay much, much more and receive only more traffic congestion. Is it really surprising that people are angry?

      • Development in the urban core does not equal a linear increase in traffic, especially when that mix of use is now shifting from Commercial to residential. I really wish you didn’t go around everywhere on the internet stating these snippets out of context and enacting them to as the gospel of land use.

        They aren’t.

        • I’m sick of your snide remarks. You consistently refuse to address any data in the studies and reports. I don’t think you can. But then, you think you are the only intelligent and knowledgeable engineer in Fairfax County. Instead of your arrogant opinions, why don’t you address the work many others have done? You really don’t understand Tysons whatsoever.

          • Tysons Engineer

            Unlike you I actually live in Tysons, and I’m tired of you McLean residents telling me I need a highway running by my place, when the traffic that you experience is on Old Dominion because of people trying to bypass 66 to Arlington. If anyone can complain about density in Tysons, its possible Vienna, they atleast upstream of Tysons, but the NIMBY McLean impositions, that flies in the face of reality and common sense.

            What would like me to address? I have done so hundreds of times with you. You keep pointing out the reports findings, obviously you have never conducted research in your life. Research is based on assumptions.

            When those assumptions are based in manuals that have been proven time and time again that they do not reflect reality on the road conditions, and only design for 1% of the actual use period of a road, then they are faulty and result in a misleading model. You can keep saying all the experts at VDOT and FCDOT told you blah blah. They get paid to do that. I don’t. It’s not that I’m smarter than them, I just dont have a conflict of interest the size of Texas to deal with.

      • A very small minority of Tea Party types are angry. Everybody else is glad that something is being done to address land use and, to an extent, congestion issues. I remember the same Tea Party types getting their knickers in a knot when the original Metro was built. They weren’t called Tea Party types back then of course. However, they were just as crazy.

        • Please show any study or report that demonstrates the Silver Line and Tysons redevelopment will reduce or even steady traffic congestion. Just one single study or report. Here is everything the Planning Commission reviewed in making its recommendations in 2010.

          • Tysons Engineer

            Whats gonna happen is whats gonna happen. I’ve grown tired of arguing it with you, the wheels are in motion on what needs to occur to finally break the cycle of the bad decisions that were made by the surrounding communities for Tysons; whether they come to a screeching halt or continue on their reform will dictate whether it is a success or not. The studies will be compared to actual conditions and those of us that live in Tysons will keep telling others who live around Tysons, we told you so, hopefully before Route 7 is widened and before International drive is widened and more DTR ramps are added.

            Till then, we are yelling at clouds.

  8. TE – what are your biases? I agree consultants can and do have biases. They should be revealed. But so should yours.

    I’ve said many times that I was working with various community groups that sought to limit the negative impacts of Tysons growth on surrounding communities (McLean, Vienna, Falls Church). That was and is my bias. What is yours?

    • My bias is that I live in Tysons, and am tired of you people shoving 8 lane highways on my front lawn that just keeps pushing more and more people out to Loudoun and continuing the cycle of bad development in this area.

      I work for a federal contractor that does international projects and havent worked in local land development for 5 years now.

      Any thing else you’d like to know? I’m also married, an avid golfer, vote left nationally, center left state wide, and moderate to center right locally. I’ve lived here in Fairfax for 30 years, and have a dog. My life, per my website, is essentially an open book. Feel free to read.

      • Where did McLean residents shove an 8-lane highway on your front lawn? And why is it wrong for people to want to live in Loudoun County? No one is saying you are wrong for where you chose to live.

        If people want to live in urban areas, we will see more development in places such as Tysons. If people want to live in suburban Loudoun we will see more people move there. Infrastructure is needed for any type of development. One of the biggest problems in Virginia is that development has rarely paid for a significant portion of the very infrastructure that enables the development. That applies everywhere. I don’t want to subsidize more development in Loudoun County by funding the Outer Beltway any more than I want to pay for the grid of streets in Tysons.

        I oppose development that doesn’t bring a concomitant increase in public facilities, whether development is in Tysons or Loudoun County. If development brings with it sufficient additions to public facilities to protect existing residents; pays an appropriate and fair share of the costs for such public facilities; and works with existing local and nearby residents and businesses to address impact mitigation issues, I’m pretty agnostic as to where such development occurs. With these types of conditions, I think development will occur where and when it makes economic sense.

        I don’t buy the argument that X type of development is so wonderful that it should be excused from the above conditions. For example, we should be willing to see tax dollars go to build the Outer Beltway so that IAD can jumpstart the airfreight business because IAD has an operational cost problem. I don’t think residential studio apartments should be built in low-density neighborhoods to address affordable housing issues. I don’t think landowners in Tysons can avoid building sufficient parks and recreational facilities to address the needs of current and future residents because the “land is too expensive.”

        Tysons needs infrastructure, including roads. And there needs to be sufficient infrastructure to fill and empty Tysons without creating massive neighborhood cut through traffic in the surrounding communities.

        Why is McLean concerned? Cut through traffic is up substantially. A number of us have met periodically with FC DOT. Some of their lead engineers and planners have shown us figures that indicate major increases in traffic on 123, Lewinsville Road, McGarity Road, Great Falls Street, Balls Hill Road, Old Dominion, Chain Bridge Road, 7, Swinks Mill Road, Spring Hill Road, Georgetown Pike, among others. While some of this traffic is not Tysons-related, much is, at least according to Fairfax County. I’ve asked enough questions and, more important, heard the questions asked by professional engineers that I believe the County’s projections are valid.

        Is everything FC DOT says infallible? Of course not. But neither do I believe that the agency is simply wrong. FC DOT was subject to great pressure to minimize conclusions Tysons will create more traffic problems. But for the 527 TIA process, FC DOT’s concerns may not have surfaced fully. But they did.

        As you most likely know, the county is considering updates to the Tysons Comp Plan, specifically land use and density, transportation, and other public facilities. In all sincerity and with a desire for placing the best information in front of the Board of Supervisors, please participate. Critique the studies. Point out errors in the assumptions. Show which manuals should be replaced.

        • And how is more density in Tysons not providing the payments towards infrastructure. They are being charged by rate, not by proffer contribution, via the taxes and assessments. In Tysons they ARE being treated different than every where else in the county because last I checked those in Loudoun/Reston/McLean don’t pay a 12% higher tax rate in order to help commuters drive faster. We in Tysons do that, despite our minimal amount of vehicular usage. Add on top of that all the other anti-urban taxes imposed this year on us, hybrid tax, sales tax, real estate sales tax, all so suburbanites can save 15 dollars per year on gas tax.

          If Tysons wants to build more, it will also gain more tax revenue for infrastructure from that. So either you think that tax rate should be higher, or you are not being forthright with your objections to growth in Tysons.

          I too was against the capital one attempt to side step the tax rate, but I just wish people in McLean would understand that the traffic you experience is created from people who live outside of Tysons, not from those of us who live in Tysons, or want more growth in mixed use in Tysons. If you were to object to rezoning plans in Ashburn, Centreville, and Chantilly then you would have far more accomplished in mitigating the traffic disaster that is Fairfax county, than picking on the easy target of Tysons (resulting in the 8 lane Route 7, future 8 lane International drive, the 8 lane Route 123, and the dulles toll road ramps that condemn people’s properties).

          • The portion of Tysons that is located north of Route 7 is within the geographic boundaries of the McLean Citizens Association. A number of Tysons residents are dues-paying members, and residents of that area have served on the board of directors of the MCA. Their views have served as input to the advocacy positions of the MCA on Tysons and other issues. The MCA comments only on rezoning projects within its geographic territory. The supervisors expect testimony on land use cases within Greater McLean.

            The reason Tysons residents are paying an extra real estate tax is because the landowners could not agree on a tax district, which, as you likely know, applies only to commercial property. The landowners were told that, absent a petition for a tax district, the County would impose a service district. Many Tysons residents opposed their inclusion in a service district, but, under state law, they cannot be excluded. The BoS decided to use the service district, but set aside 10% of the tax revenues for transportation projects that directly benefits Tysons residents. I can understand why you are concerned about the added real estate tax. You make a good argument.

            I would not, however, there are several other service districts in the county where residents and businesses pay higher taxes – including for the McLean Community Center. Nevertheless, I appreciate your complaint about the tax imposed on residents.

            I am not against growth in Tysons. I am against the argument that the growth in Tysons will not affect McLean. I think it is a good idea to add considerable density to the four rail stations and to encourage transit, biking and walking as better means to get around Tysons than more car trips. I would oppose adding density beyond the immediate TOD areas as those residents and workers are more likely to drive cars than those in the TOD area. In the future, it may be appropriate to revisit the issue.

            I agree with your argument that many of the road and transit investments have nothing to do with the existing residents of Tysons and quite possibly limited relationships with future residents of Tysons. I agree that the main reason these major road projects you note are going to be constructed is to accommodate the many people (target 200K) that will work in Tysons, but not live there.

            I think your argument about widening roads in and near Tysons is wrong. Much of what drives the widened roads is the fact 7, 123 and the Beltway are part of the national highway system. The Feds are insistent that those types of roads handle through traffic, as is VDOT. I would agree that at least some residents of Tysons chafe at the idea of the wider roads. But Fairfax County does not control roads and does not want to do so. So VDOT and the Feds call the shots to a great degree. Fairfax County has generally supported the VDOT and Federal positions.

            The Tysons Task Force attempted to prevent the widening of Routes 7 and 123. Its views were rejected by VDOT and the Feds. The FHWA would not even listen to the argument because the two roads are part of the national highway system and carry large volumes of through traffic. So I’d argue not widening the roads was always a non-starter.

          • Tysons Engineer

            Oh come now, Route 7 and 123 both get choked down, and arent of the feds and states concern when it goes through Vienna, McLean, and Falls Church (the 3 most affluent areas of our metro region).

            So why are they only 4 lane roads in those areas if the idea is throughput? The traffic jams that happen in Tysons has much more to do with that sudden choke down than anything thats being built in Tysons.

            Your community taxes in Mclean (and Reston for instance) go specifically to an amenity only enjoyed by residents of that area in public spaces, not roads that are by majority used by people outside of the boundary. The arbitrary geographic boundaries of the MCA are more due to the unincorporated nature of most of Fairfax rather than a fair assessment of the views of Tysons residents. Come now, you must atleast admit that or atleast have the courage to come to my building and speak in front of my COA on the subject and see if we agree. Based on the all but ticker tape parade we through for Cityline when they came to talk to us about the next door Arbor Row project, I don’t think you will find too many sympathetic ears.

            It is another case of agree to disagree. I will say I agree with many things you say outside of this discussion (ultimately archaic state laws forced an overarching service district). I agree that growth should be focused only at the metro transit systems. Where we disagree is to what limit. I believe any limit at those areas is unhealthy and the market should ultimately dictate what gets built (even if its mega height structures). You and the MCA have argued on the basis of a total square footage limit for Tysons in the past, correct me if I am wrong.

            Ultimately you and I want the same things. I want growth in and around Tysons and only around TOD areas. You want the same it seems, especially no major Tysonification of McLean (which I ran a post about the other day saying how I was against projects that were starting to creep like that).

            Where we get off the rails is when we talk about horse before the cart issues. You want the roads built first, I say lets build the buildings, acquire the tax revenue, install the road grid, and if conditions actually warrant on Route 7, 123, international, DTR then at that time widen and do the ramp projects but NOT before when it can still endanger the very marketability of those early projects and more importantly endanger the lives of Tysons’ residents. Worst case scenario, we are prepared and ready to build when the time warrants. Best case scenario, we find out we didn’t need to widen those roads, we suddenly have a windfall which can go towards other more pressing infrastructure needs (heck maybe I can finally get the cross walk and street light in my neighborhood that FCDOT has no money for).

  9. fascinating conversation… and informative… certainly can say that from afar – the perspective is not the same as that of two who live there or nearby.

    the conversation about US signed roads is interesting also… as in the last couple of years VDOT seems to have taken a stronger more assertive position on access management of US signed and Va primary roads as such roads were primarily designs to move traffic not local access.

    as such things like curb cuts, median crossovers and traffic signals are done specifically the protect and preserve the road’s intended functionality.

    Most county localities – but not city/town localities do not really understand the difference in the “signing” and functional classification of roads with respect to the their design – and changes and upgrades to them. Some localities don’t even understand the fundamental differences between a secondary, 600 series road and a US signed highway and believe they all are not only the same but “belong” to the locality and the locality can decide how to use it. Not true.

    this is an example of the long history of the US and Va to develop highways that “connect” rather than locally access… which has traditionally been left up to the locality except in 4 states of which Va is one where VDOT does it soup-to-nuts but in the process the localities are mostly clueless about the distinctions between functional classifications and how they impact road design and use. Cities and Towns in Va (and 2 counties) are well aware of the issue because they do have responsibility for local roads but VDOT still maintains control over US-signed roads and Va Primary roads.

    but these US-signed and VA Primary roads never did “belong” to the locality – but VDOT historically was more compliant to the locality than they are now because basically we’re running out of roads and money and we have to preserve and protect the major arterials if we want to maintain some level of functionality to move traffic THROUGH an area.

    • TE

      The McLean Community Center is a public building and is used by people who pay and who don’t pay the extra real estate taxes to support it and its activities. Taxpayer receive discounts on fees. The boundaries of the NCA are the same as those of the McLean Planning district established by Fairfax County. If you want to influence the policies of the MCA, join. Have your like-thinking neighbors join. Participate in the Tysons Liaison Committee. Ask Sally Horn, our president, to come speak with your board. She does that, as did her predecessors.

      There are caps on total development at Tysons because the public facilities, which include more than roads, cannot handle more growth. There is a cap on commercial property to encourage residential development. There is no cap on FAR in the immediate TOD areas. There is a building height limit of 400 feet.

      I appreciate your argument about developing first and then building roads. But that argument was made and rejected even before the Task Force met. The 1990-94 Task Force reached the conclusion that transportation requirements and density must be done together. The supervisors committed to carry this policy forward when it launched the mid-2000s’ Task Force. I’ve heard Sharon Bulova at the Government Center say the County has learned its lesson. It will not allow major development without the necessary roads and transit. The bottom line is: for your position to be adopted, you need to turn around the entire county government. It’s not the MCA. It’s the entire county.

      You and your association are free to raise your argument as the County looks at the Comp Plan for Tysons. It will look at transportation, land use, and other public facilities. I don’t think your position of build density without the road projects will have any legs as it would unravel the delicate consensus that brought the 2010 Plan amendment to fruition. But argue what you believe is correct. I think you will have a hornet’s nest of opposition, but that should not stop you if you feel you are correct. Make and support your arguments.

      • On the MCC, you do know you are making my point right? Your argument that other areas pay special taxes is invalidated by your very admission… btw I have lived in this area for 30 years can you please stop trying to tell me things I dont know?

        As far as Bulova’s comments, you are conflating two things. No one is saying transportation shouldnt be tied to land use. Her comments were as far as timing of funding vs timing of development, not necessarily making sure that a road exists prior to that development. By proceeding by your method we put at risk a lot of public funds for a perceived fear of a doomsday that may never happen (as has been the case in many, many, many transportation boondoggles). All I say is, collect the funds, see what is needed where, and address. Why that is such a scary thing to you I will never understand.

        Lastly, my association (atleast not myself) has no interest in joining a group where our voice will simply be diluted. The population of the MCA, by its outstretched geography, essentially causes that dilution in Tysons. Saying that the MCA speaks for Tysons is like saying the State of Virginia speaks for Fairfax. No, more often than not the State of Virginia just steps on the toes and gets in the way of Fairfax and the wants and needs of our county. The tyranny of the majority and such.

    • The highway-fication of all of our roads is the problem. VDOTs obsession with interlocal movement vs intralocal movement is why we have places that look like 3rd world post-war ruins… for instance drive through beautiful (sarcasm) Chantilly Virginia. People who live in Chantilly dont even like Chantilly.

      In this era of road design where everything California has dictated has become some sort of holy book never to be questioned (California, the state with awful traffic) we could never have a town; the basic parameters of spacing, sizing, and land use that make towns are impossible given current criteria.

      In the case of Tysons, FCDOT and VDOT have continued an ongoing argument about the ending of VDOT’s road standards for Tysons roads specifically. So hopefully some of the basic parameters that make the roads so unusable to anything but a car doing 55mph, will change. However VDOT has no plans to release its vice grip on telling use which roads are “failing” -> (the LOS system in which if you aren’t at A, essentially freeflow highway, at all times of the day then you have failed and all is lost).

      In other words, for those of us who believe we need to stop putting highways through our towns and neighborhoods, the struggle will continue.

  10. where do we get the money to build roads before development?

    never understood that..

    • Larry, because of pressure from citizens groups, the Fairfax County BoS directed FC DOT to prepare a plan for funding and building road and transit improvements for Tysons stretching to 2030. The projects are listed in terms of priority, which can change over time. The projects include engineering/planning; RoW acquisition/utilities relocations; and actual construction. The plan includes conservative funding based on then-existing funding sources, which include historical funding sources (based on 20 years of history for federal and state funding); the CIT tax; expected proffers; funds from the service district; and local bonding. All dollars are in constant (2102 as I recall) dollars. The calculations were before the recent transportation tax hikes. It is a reasonably conservative plan. It is a model for what state and local government should do in all of Virginia.

      TE, I’ve never heard FC DOT or VDOT talk about LOS A in Tysons. No one expects it. What they do accept as a given is to “fill and empty” Tysons on a reasonable basis. That’s what the long-term road and transit plans purport to do, along with TDM, bikes and sidewalks.

      Like it or not, the MCA has significant credibility with the feds, state and local government. So does the Town of Vienna, the Great Falls Citizens Association, the Providence District Council, and the Reston Citizens Association, Gates of McLean HOA, the Rotunda COA, and the Hunter Mill Defense League, for example. Ditto for the Tysons Partnership. I’d say stacked up against them, you and your association, assuming it would agree with you, have a very high mountain to climb.

      Why should you even be invited to the table? All of these organizations, their leadership and volunteers were active on Tysons matters for years. Where were you? Where was your COA? You can certainly stand up and, with your professional training, speak as a knowledgeable person. But realize that you will likely be contradicted by 10 other engineers.

      Don’t belong to the MCA. Don’t belong to the Tysons Partnership. But also realize that other residents of Tysons do belong and participate in the debates. Put your arrogance away for a while. Stop pretending you are the only person in Tysons who has the true vision. Respect others’ views. If you disagree with them, present and support your views. Then go to meetings; prepare comments on proposals; speak up; provide support for your positions. Do this, and, over time, you are likely to influence the future of Tysons.

      But attack the people of McLean and elsewhere; tell them they have no business in Tysons and no knowledge of planning and transportation issues and you will find yourself totally marginalized.

      The MCA’s territory covers part of Tysons. And both Supervisors Foust and Smyth want to hear from the Association on Tysons and other land use and transportation issues. Are you suggesting they be told not to listen? What about the dues paying MCA members who live in Tysons? Should they be told to defer to you?

  11. re: transportation CIPs

    not worth warm spit unless:

    1. – they show the year of anticipated construction
    2. – they show costs in the construction year dollars
    3. – each year – the money data is updated.

    otherwise – what you have is a wish list that is worth the paper its printed on.

    the thing to remember is …saving money towards a future construction date… is a lot like saving money towards buying a new house…

    same issue… a road that costs a million dollars today will cost 2x that in 10 years…

    so you never get there.. you’re always chasing …..

    this is what happened to VDOT statewide a couple of years back when the auditors looked at their six year plan and decided that more than 1/2 of the projects actually had no funding.. because inflation had eaten it up and/or other projects had to “borrow” money from other projects to actually get full funding.

    you pretty much have to build with the money you have – now.. or it’s a losing game.

    the cost for a project is not in current dollars – it’s the adjusted dollars in the year of construction.

    • Larry, I should have added the spreadsheet is updated regularly for changes in deliverables and costs. Growth pushes projects forward; a stale economy slows them down. The County has the figures in current dollars as well. It uses constant dollars to make understanding and communications easier. I sat through a 2 & 1/2 hour presentation and discussion of the plan about 18 months ago. It is not a reach absent a depression. The planning assumptions are quite defendable and conservative in nature. There is no “and then magic happens” in the plan. This does not mean there are no challenges, just that the plan is achievable. It is actually a fine example of good government.

      • whenever I hear of a transportation Plan – I want to see the year of construction and the estimated cost at the year of construction.

        whatever you have in funding right now is not worth what it will be at the time of construction.

        so everything needs to be shown for the year of construction.. and if that changes – either delayed or accelerated – the numbers change.

        I don’t know how Fairfax does business but I can tell you that VDOT itself up until 2 years ago was playing this game as was two counties down our way .. and the reason they do it is simple – they can promise a lot more projects to keep people content that their road will be scheduled.. even when – over time – roads are either delayed or removed – because the mo money to do them is simply not there.

        money inflation and road construction inflation are insidious…and even fast-tracked projects – can take years.

        If you take a look at the VDOT 6yr plan these days for your country – you’re going to see two things:

        1. – fewer projects
        2. – shorter timeframes for construction.

  12. This obviously is a good and enlightening discussion. I think that by and large TMT has the best grasp on the facts and there consequences, although I disagree with a few of his conclusions. At base however (absent unexpected demographic and tech chances) the necessary root solutions are primarily found the proper mix and placement of uses. Absent this, all else will ultimately fail again and again, so matter the other fixes or solutions applied.

    As I have said many times, we need to go back and learn how B/R corridor was put together between 1975 and 2000. Once those lessons are absorbed, they can be applied in one way or other to almost all issues at hand in Northern Virginia. But I would confine my study to what was done and learned between 1975 and 2000. That is where the important work, and the real innovation came into play, and most of the big things of enduring truth and practicality were discovered and applied first in Ballston. In my view most everything learned of value since are footnotes to those earlier lessons.

    And, during every year since then, it seems to me that we wander farther and farther off course, away from these timeless lessons learned in the last quarter of the 20th century there in Arlington. This lost of direction is in the nature of human behavior. So to stay on course we must go back regularly and refresh ourselves at the well of what worked and why from those earlier times. And not allow ourselves to get caught up in much of the nonsense that its currently going on in Northern Va., including Arlington.

  13. is the R/B corridor unique or is it representative of other places?

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