Op-Ed: Don’t Tax Reston Residents for Transportation Improvements

Reston Transit Areas/Fairfax CountyThis is an op-ed by Reston resident Terry Maynard. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

On Monday, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) and Reston Network Analysis Group (RNAG) once again offered several proposals that would create a transportation tax service district (TSD) for the Reston Metro transit station areas (TSAs) along the Dulles Corridor that would add to the tax bills of Restonians living there.

At the meeting, FCDOT detailed three TSD tax rate options: $0.017/$100 assessed valuation, $0.20/$100 assessed valuation, and $0.27/$100 assessed valuation to be paid for 40 years largely based on mindless comparisons with Tysons.

Ostensibly, these funds would close a $350 million “gap” in funding new and improved streets and intersections throughout the TSAs to accommodate the traffic added there by new high-density development.

What FCDOT and RNAG failed to do, indeed, they did not even discuss, was why TSA residents should pay any extra tax for roadway improvements to accommodate added commercial for profit high-density development.

As calculated by Reston 20/20 earlier this year, developers may reasonably expect to have net operating profits exceeding $50 billion over the next 40 years from their development around Reston’s TSAs –more than one billion dollars per year over the timeframe for the proposed TSD. On the other hand, residents of the TSAs will not see an added penny in income because of the improvements.

Worse yet, FCDOT has stated outright that it intends to make traffic congestion worse in the TSAs. Instead of a peak hour intersection traffic Level of Service (LOS) “D”, they’re aiming at LOS “E”. LOS “E” means the intersection is operating “at or near capacity,” typically with 55-80 second delays, with traffic occasionally queueing back through the previous signaled intersection. And that’s a decision that affects all Restonians and others who need to travel to or through the corridor.

To further stick a finger in Dulles Corridor and other Restonians’ eyes, the FCDOT has told RNAG and the community that its plan calls for no additions to bus service to offset the planned worse traffic conditions over the next 40 years, just the re-routing of existing bus routes. That’s despite the fact that County development plans call for roughly a doubling of the number of jobs and residents along the Dulles Corridor over the 40-year period.

The bottom line is that the County and RNAG are proposing to force Reston residents of the TSAs to pay extra taxes for worse traffic and bus service. Only Fairfax County would offer that proposal as reasonable.

Ultimately, however, the County’s TSD proposal is really no more than a scam to get another foot in Restonians’ doors (or, more accurately, a hand in Restonians’ wallets) for a new County property tax revenue stream. The so-called $350 million funding “gap” is a ruse generated by FCDOT to justify the creation of the TSD that FCDOT created by manipulating the forecast funding contributions of developers and the County. The imaginary $9 million annual funding “gap” could easily be covered by small additional developer and/or County funding contributions.

To begin with, there is no reason that the developers should not pay all the costs of these new roadways and improved intersections that will enable them to earn over $50 billion in the next four decades.   The so-called $350 million funding “gap” total is less than one percent of the likely profits developers will garner over the next four decades. Developers could dig just a little deeper to come up with that sum and their stakeholders probably wouldn’t even notice, despite the yelping of the executives.

Moreover, an additional small County investment of $9 million per year in Reston to facilitate successful new high-density development would generate additional billions in County property tax revenues over the years. But then why should the County invest even an additional one one-thousandth of one percent (0.001%) of its current $8 billion in annual revenues in Reston when it can persuade Restonians to fork over more money to a new County tax revenue stream?

In fact, it is highly unlikely that the County Board will carry out its funding plan as it has been laid out to the RNAG now in more than ten different scenarios. To start with, FCDOT Chief Tom Biesiadny would not rule out extension of the TSD at this week’s meeting beyond the 40-year plan. Moreover, the Tysons task force endorsed a TSD ostensibly for the same “gap” filling purposes several years ago, and its tax rate increased the second year it was in force from $.04/$100 assessed valuation to $.05/$100 valuation.  A Tysons TSD tax rate increase to $.06/$100 assessed valuation is already baked into the County budget for next year.

In short, there is absolutely no reason for Restonians to believe that whatever TSD tax rate FCDOT, RNAG, and the County Board choose will not increase, that all the funds will be used for Reston transportation improvements, nor that the tax will end after four decades.

The Reston transit station area TSD is merely a placeholder based on deceptive analysis for generating more County property tax revenues from Reston homeowners in addition to the Reston Community Center Special Tax District No. 5.

Reston needs your help in stopping this continuing County scheme. FCDOT has said that it wants feedback on its funding proposal, so please let Tom Biesiadny ([email protected]) and Project Manager Kristin Calkins ([email protected]) know what you think of yet another additional County property tax on Restonians.

When you do, please be sure to copy Supervisor Hudgins ([email protected]) and RNAG Chair Andy Sigle ([email protected]) on your message.  We will be unable to stop this deceptive and unnecessary new property tax without the involvement of Restonians both in and beyond the Dulles Corridor.

Terry Maynard

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