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Del Ken Plum: Thank You, DCRA

by Del. Ken Plum August 6, 2014 at 1:00 pm 4 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThe opening of the Silver Line on July 26 brought an overflow crowd of dignitaries and well-wishers to cut the ribbon and ride the first train. The half-completed project received a lot of acclaim with its airy and sleek stations and gleaming new equipment. The first phase of the extension of Metro that will increase the size of the mass transit system by 25 percent has clearly captured the spirit of most of the community.

The feelings about heavy-rail transit in the Dulles Corridor have not always been viewed so positively. While the idea of mass transit to Dulles Airport has been around for more than 50 years, positive steps to make it a reality were slow in taking place.

When I organized the Dulles Corridor Rail Association (DCRA) in August, 1998 to provide mass transit in the corridor, there were many doubters, naysayers and skeptics. The original board made up of community and business leaders and professional planner Patty Nicoson, who became and remains president of DCRA, went about building the case for a mass transit approach. Population growth projections for the region provided the clearest evidence that highways and cars would not be adequate to meet transportation needs in the future. The idea that the nation’s capital did not have a rail connection to its international airport was appalling to many. Air pollution’s effect on the health of the region was also a concern.

DCRA was able to get the conversation going about mass transit for the corridor and kept it before the attention of public officials as the many issues related to the project were debated. Should rail just go to Tysons Corner? Dulles Airport? Loudoun County? Should it be bus? Bus rapid transit? Light rail? Heavy rail? Should it be a subway system? Aerial system? How many stations? Where?

DCRA played a role in making sure that public officials got a regular flow of information on what was happening in other localities, advantages and concerns related to options, and the costs and consequences of inaction. As planning progressed and the project went through its ups and downs and near-death experiences, the DCRA board and its members were there to write letters, provide fact sheets and opinion columns, line up speakers for public hearings, and even run full-page ads in The Washington Post at a critical time in the approval process for the project. Twice a year, DCRA held receptions at significant locations along the route of the rail line and recognized individuals and organizations that had contributed to moving the project forward.

I was honored to be asked to speak at the opening ceremony for the Silver Line, where I acknowledged as I want to do here the critically important and very effective work of Patty Nicoson towards the success of this project and the significant help of current and past DCRA board members. Many have mentioned that we might still just be talking about it if not for the work of DCRA and its success in keeping it truly nonpartisan. I am pleased to have been a part of such an effort that will be transformative for our region.

Ken Plum represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates

  • Mike M

    Ken, are you accepting the kudos for the exorbitant tolls as well? Thanks for that, chief!

  • Frogger

    So, are you also taking credit for allowing local toll road users to pay about half the $6 billion construction costs and property owners (residential and commercial) in Loudoun and Fairfax County to pay another quarter of the costs of Silver Line construction? And that doesn’t count interest over the next several decades.

    NOWHERE else in the Metro system have local jurisdictions (much less toll road users) had to assume the full burden of adding to Metrorail; it has always been a share expense among MD, DC, & VA. And that’s after the federal government rejected MWAA’s application for new start funding in 2008 because the project is not cost-effective.
    Nice work, Kenny.

  • Tammi Petrine

    Delegate Plum,
    You and your lobby, DCRA, irresponsibly failed to achieve equitable funding for the Silver Line project from the entire Metro service area in VA.

    Many members of the Reston community and surrounding area are deeply concerned and increasingly furious at you and others for heaping half of the costs the Silver Line onto the backs of a small vulnerable demographic, Dulles Toll Road (DTR) users.

    You foisted this unconscionable burden on our community without clear legal permission and without constituent approval because you knew DTR users were an anonymous group who could not organize to protest it. We, who voted for the building of the tollway, all know it was never designed to be an un-audited, unlimited piggy bank for politicians & MWAA, the poster child for unethical and ineffective management.

    In fact, politicians like you promise the tolls would END when the bonds to build the road were paid off. You took advantage of us anyway. To this day, you continue to praise the Silver Line, completely ignoring its outrageously unfair financing scheme in which you played a major role.

    This irresponsible move has already had extremely serious unintended consequences for our beloved community and ALL of your constituents. Volunteers from Reston 2020 and others have studied this, documented it and presented predictions and warnings to Fairfax County officials, state officials including you, our Senators and Congressman.

    One of those consequences is a sharp downturn in DTR use with traffic diverted to our local roads. Restonians are already dealing with near grid-lock on secondary roads due to people fleeing the increasing tolls which were supposed to disappear once the road was paid for. How attractive will living in Reston be in the fall when everyone is back from vacation, school buses are on the roads again and we can not access our community for hours on end?

    Will we think our county real estate assessments should go UP with the arrival of Metro as the county intends or DOWN?

    Commercial owners are paying taxes too and certainly the arrival of Metro should make their properties even more valuable… Readers should know that the
    Dulles Corridor is the biggest source of taxes to Fairfax County and supplies more revenue than the whole of Tysons Corner combined.

    What about our wallets? Are they there merely for the plucking?

    Even Reston’s Metro users, who are NOT PAYING A PENNY for Silver Line construction from their fares, saw their bus or auto to Metro commuting cost skyrocket up as much 90% on July 28th. In fact, their fares cover about only two-thirds of the Metro’s operating costs. The rest are paid through our County property taxes. In this era of shrinking salaries and rising costs, both Metro users AND DTR users will be stretched to the breaking point.

    Overall the construction costs for local taxpayers and toll road users of 23 miles of Metro rail will balloon to over $16 BILLION minimum when financing over a 40 year period is taken into account. And no other community in VA is dependent on a
    tollway for primary regional access. When the tolls increase to a tipping point to pay this incredible sum, and they will, the attractiveness of Reston, our premier planned community, and the Dulles corridor will plummet.

    I wonder what your column headline will be then. Perhaps “How Plum and Nicoson killed Fairfax County’s Golden Goose”?

  • Reston Realist

    Wow! Way to pat yourself on the back! Is it Del. Plum or DCRA Chairman Plum who wrote this massively self-congratulatory hagiography?

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