"Phase II of Dulles Rail fails miserably as a transportation project," told about 50 people gathered in the one day last week, for his annual State of the Distric address.
This spring the Fairfax County and Loudoun County boards of supervisors must decide whether to opt in or opt out of Phase II of the Dulles Rail Project. Herrity warned that Fairfax County is not ready for that vote.
"Rail through Tysons past the airport and into Loudoun is the largest public works project in the history of the Commonwealth, and it has significant financial implications to the counties, their residents and businesses, and the users of the Dulles Toll Road" said Herrity. "We need to have the best answer on the table when it's time to vote."
Herrity said he was critical of the Tysons Plan from the start because it was approved without a transportation plan or a way to fund it. "The newest estimate for Tysons infrastructure now exceeds $2 billion, and the Board [of Supervisors] is allowing the Planning Commission to recommend how much citizens across the county will pay for the infrastructure."
At last week's meeting, Herrity reviewed his major points, referring constituents to his "Phase II of the Dulles Rail Project" Jan. 30, 2012, report for complete details.
"There are several common-sense actions that need to be taken now in order for us to have the best deal in front of us when we make our decision for our citizens," he said. These include:
- Studying the economic impact of high tolls on the Dulles Corridor and Tysons. As much as 75 percent of funding for Phase II is currently expected to come from tolls. "It's estimated commuters on the Dulles Toll Road would pay up to $10 each way [daily] by 2020," Herrity said.
- Exploring and negotiating additional funding sources;
- Improving Virginia's representation on the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Board. Herrity called the MWAA board "dysfunctional at best," saying, "there are more representatives on MWAA from outside Virginia than inside Virginia. One of Governor Kaines' appointees is the labor union representative from the union which would do the work … and the man lives in Maryland."
- Clarifying a 'No Mandatory Project Labor' (PLA) agreement to ensure jobs stay in-state and the project qualifies for state funding contributions;
- Producing a 15-year projection of operating expenses for which Fairfax County taxpayers will be responsible;
- Updating the 2002 ridership projections to reflect the changes in Fairfax and Loudoun counties since then;
- Driving down the project's cost.
During his 45-minute presentation, Herrity reviewed key points from his 10-page prepared "State of the District, February 2012" report.
"In the seven years before I joined the Board, taxes on the average homeowner doubled from $2,400 to over $4,800," Herrity said. He reviewed the ways he continues to work to lower taxes, noting that they are slightly lower in 2012. "We have made some progress," he said. "Taxes on the average homeowner in the 2012 budget are $4,746, lower than when I took office."
Concerning the school board, Herrity said, "The new school board stood up to the superintendent on honors classes. I hope they do the same on the budget. We need to get money into the classroom and out of administration."
Herrity confirmed his commitment to reducing government regulation. "Regulation is hard on our homeowners and businesses," he said. He cited as an example the former 125 pages of tree ordinances. "It was an administrative nightmare for many of our homeowners and businesses. We adopted common-sense revisions that help relieve the burden while still protecting our tree canopy."
"We really need to keep in mind that what makes Fairfax County great is its suburban neighborhoods," said Herrity. He supports limiting urbanization to certain corridors of the county, while protecting neighborhoods.
Looking forward, Herrity said the county should prepare for cuts in federal contracting by continuing to focus on diversifying the types of businesses solicited to the county. For example: "We have a great opportunity to use the region's significant IT knowledge base to capture the growing health care IT market," he said.
In early spring, Herrity plans a town hall meeting with VDOT and county transportation staff to discuss a long-term plan for the Fairfax County Parkway. "l want to start the visioning process—how did we get to where we are, what’s on the books now for improvements, and what should we do," he said. "It's of the utmost importance that we have a vision for its long-term future so as to avoid creating another I-66."
"Our future success [as a county] is nor preordained," said Herrity. "We certainly have the ability and the resources needed to keep Fairfax County the envy of the rest of the country, but we need strong leadership to ensure continued success."