Fast, Efficient and… Less Accountable?

A design-build approach worked beautifully on the 495 Beltway widening, Connaughton says.

The McDonnell administration hopes that VDOT’s “design-build” approach to highway engineering will advance projects more quickly and save millions of dollars. But public accountability may suffer.

By James A. Bacon

Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton liked this story so much that he told it twice this week during the September meeting of the Commonwealth Transportation Board in Portsmouth. When Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) engineers conducted the initial design for the I-495 Beltway, he said, they estimated that the project would cost $3 billion. But when Transurban, the Australia-based toll road builder/operator, took a crack at the same design challenge, the cost dropped to $1.5 million. What’s more, said Connaughton, “They added four lanes; we would have added only two.”

One big difference between the two designs was that VDOT envisioned the necessity of acquiring more than 600 houses and commercial buildings while Transurban figured out how to build the project with a much smaller footprint, saving hundreds of millions of dollars in right-of-way acquisition costs.

And that is why Connaughton is a big believer in “design-build” contracts. He wasn’t knocking the professionalism of the VDOT engineers. But he did make the argument that soliciting a design from a private-sector group like Transurban could yield fresh, creative thinking on how to design a project more economically.

Under the McDonnell administration there will be more design-build contracts in Virginia’s transportation future, a philosophical shift that represents a big change in how VDOT manages road projects and how it interacts with the public. Design-build offers the potential to cut the cost of big-figure mega-projects. But because the projects move so much faster, the approach also threatens to reduce meaningful public involvement. Indeed, the controversial Charlottesville Bypass, which is being rushed to bids, may be a case in point.

Traditionally, VDOT used the “design-bid-build” approach to designing and building roads. It was a linear process, Charlie Kilpatrick, chief deputy commissioner, explained to the CTB. Projects moved sequentially from one phase to the next, a process that could take years. The contracts were very “prescriptive,” with the quantity of materials specified precisely. Contractors liked it because it was low-risk. If there were overruns in the quantity of materials, VDOT would pay for them. The process had all been worked out, and everyone was comfortable with it.

The design-build approach transfers much of the risk to the contractors but gives them more flexibility in solving problems. Contractors, who typically partner with engineering firms, are required to meet broad specifications and guidelines but have considerable latitude in figuring out how to meet them. If they miscalculate the volume of materials required, they are liable for the overrun. An advantage of the process is the ability to run many of the design and construction phases concurrently. Construction could be underway on one section of the project even while engineers were designing another section. In theory, completing projects more quickly cuts construction costs.

Another reason VDOT is resorting to design-build projects right now is that the department has largely run out of off-the-shelf project designs. In the past, VDOT engineers would do rough designs entailing about 30% of the work in order to develop cost estimates and move quickly to take advantage of unexpected funding opportunities. When the 2007 recession hit, VDOT curtailed its engineering work in an effort to cut costs. Later, when the Obama administration started distributing highway construction dollars under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the so-called “stimulus” bill), VDOT drew down its off-the-shelf plans. Now, said Virginia Highway Commissioner Gregory A. Whirley, the cupboard is almost bare. VDOT’s updated strategic plan calls for setting aside 10% to 15% of the state’s construction program budget for preliminary engineering in order to beef up its project inventory. Until then, the department will use more design-build, in effect outsourcing the design to engineering-construction firms and partnerships.

James A. Davis, former president of Shenandoah University in Winchester, said Virginia’s higher education sector went through a similar transition two decades ago. Colleges and contractors were comfortable with the design-bid-build process and were reluctant to change. “You have to be very clear about the specifications,” he told the board. “It’s a very different management process. It’s more creative, and you don’t know until you reach 90% [project completion] what the final cost will be.”

Despite the anxieties, design-build did cut the construction time of college buildings dramatically and saved considerable money. It’s largely standard for the higher ed sector today.

On the other hand, as Davis conceded, highway projects are typically more complex than college buildings. Also, he might have added, highways have a far greater impact on the public than college buildings do.

“How do we reconcile this with our obligation to consult with taxpayers?” asked James E. Rich, the Culpeper District representative on the CTB, who opposed the Charlottesville Bypass. It wasn’t an academic question. Read more.

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27 responses to “Fast, Efficient and… Less Accountable?

  1. Jim:

    You can’t run from the facts. The first parcels of land needed for the bypass were purchased by VDOT in 1991.

    Yes, 20 years ago.

    “How do we reconcile this with our obligation to consult with taxpayers?” asked James E. Rich …

    Maybe don’t sit on your ass for 20 years doing nothing?

    Jim – you are either being hoodwinked or you are part of the conspiracy. These people don’t give a rat’s ass about consulting with taxpayers. They don’t want the road built – not in any way, not at any cost.

    I wonder how much infrastructure has been built in China since 1991? Think they might have managed to get a 6.2 mi bypass done in two decades?

    I wonder why the United States is struggling to compete on the global stage?

  2. ironic but Charlottesville has the same problem as NOVA – both have roads of statewide/nationwide significance of which both constitute significant to significant difficulties for those who are merely trying to get through the area en-route to their destination.

    NoVa has gotten so bad that East Coast travelers divert east and west to longer routes.. and/or try to “time” their time to NOT try to get through at rush hour.

    VDOT has usually tried to defer to the locality even when what the locality wanted would degrade the transportation utility of a major road.

    this, in turn, has led to the need for “bypasses” …. the Western Transportation Bypass and the Charlottesville Bypass…. both necessary before in both locations the original road that was supposed to allow people to travel through the area – was slowly by surely co-opted for local development .. for local mobility -at the expense of national/state mobility.

    so I find myself reluctantly thinking that the way to deal with the need for bypasses is to preserve and protect the original route…

    water under the bridge now… but even Groveton should decry the bankrupting of VDOT transpo money – in part by having to spend scarce dollars on “bypasses”.

    Lynchburg.. who considers Charlottesville a burr in their RT29 butt is not covered in glory either.

    It’s the same basic story .. except VDOT has built a very significant interstate-grade bypass around much (but not all) of Lynchburg.

    I’m quite sure the good people of Lynchburg did not cough up the money for that bypass… and that the good people of Va did -… and you can’t build too many roads of that scope on a gas tax that has not changed since 1986 before you run out of money – as they have.

    so… we’re still building bypasses…ungodly expensive and duplicative and without tolls….

  3. Groveton, Do you believe that Jim Rich’s point of view is so illegitimate that I should not have reported it? It’s not as if I made it the main point of the story. I think I laid out pretty clear the thinking of the McDonnell administration on the merits of design-build. No one else has written about it and I think I’m doing a public service by getting that information out there.

    Personally, I think that VDOT and Connaughton deserve credit for thinking outside the box. On the other hand, life is full of trade offs. And one of the trade offs with design-build projects is that there might be less room for public involvement. We’ll see how that plays out with the Charlottesville Bypass.

    As for building infrastructure in China, yeah, the Chi-Coms have built a lot of infrastructure. The Chi-Coms also run an authoritarian state. They’ve bulldozed the rights of a lot of peasants and other little people, who are pretty pissed off about they way they’ve been treated. Please don’t tell me you’ve joined Thomas Friedman in his China envy. Democracy and respect for individual rights can be a real pain in the ass — until it’s your individual rights that get trampled.

  4. LarryG:

    Charlottesville and NoVa do share two things in common. First, both are trying to make progress as employment centers. Second, both are tortured by the political establishment in Virginia.

    Jim:

    You are, of course, free to report as you wish. However, your journalistic independence would be enhanced if (just once) you reported on the potential benefits of progress rather than exclusively reporting on the potential downfalls.

    As for Chi-Coms – I could have used the Australians or the Americans of 1950 – 1970 as equivalent examples. The song remains the same …. 20 years is more than enough time for talk.

    As for Mr. Friedman – he is becoming more sensible just as Paul Krugman becomes more idiotic. For example, from Friedman’s last New York Times Op Ed …

    “I’ve argued that the only way for Obama to expose just how radical the G.O.P. has become would be for the president to put out in detail his version of a credible “Grand Bargain” and then go sell it to the country. But that proposal had to include real long-term spending cuts in Medicare and Social Security so they can be preserved, tax reform that raises revenues by asking more of the rich — but also demands something from everyone — and an agenda for investing in our growth engines, like schools and infrastructure, right now to stimulate the economy today in ways that also increase our productivity for tomorrow.”.

    Real long term spending cuts in Social Security? Good to see that Tom Friedman is reading my posts in BaconsRebellion! Now, if Krugman would just start doing the same maybe he could rehabilitate his reputation.

  5. Groveton, I’m a big believer in progress. I just don’t see progress being served by the mal-investment of highway dollars by the state any more than I see it as being enhanced by the mal-investment of federal dollars to the likes of Solyndra. If we are to be sure that the billions of dollars that the McDonnell administration now has available is well spent, there needs to be transparency and accountability. Right now, I am the only reporter consistently covering Commonwealth Transportation Board meetings or writing about anything other than projects that are happening in their own back yard. I am systematically exploring all points of view. If you think that I haven’t let the McDonnell administration have its fair say, then speak up. But you can’t, because I’ve done more than every other news outlet in Virginia *combined* to explain McDonnell’s grand transportation strategy and explain how Connaughton is shaking up VDOT — and I will continue to do so. I will also continue to scrutinize, analyze and, yes, sometimes question, every big decision they make.

  6. Jim:

    Perhaps you’ll consider a report on how the Commonwealth manages to have a process whereby land parcels for use in eminent domain were purchased 20 years ago yet the debate over the intended project continues to this day.

    Perhaps you’ll even add some commentary as to how many decades should be allocated for analysis of a 6.2 mile stretch of road.

  7. “progress” is not building bypasses to replace roads that were not preserved for their original transportation purpose.

    It’s an egregious waste of gas tax dollars that are already limited.

    I note that VDOT is coupling this project with aggressive access management of Rt-29 – which is good …and would have been better had they done that from the get-go.

    re: social security cuts.

    Social Security is not the problem. Medicare and MedicAid are the problems. Both of them have 10-20 times the unfunded liabilities of SS.

    Let’s have another thread on SS so I can provide the links that show the facts.

  8. Groveton, the Charlottesville Bypass has been on the books for nearly 20 years, but that does not mean it has been “studied” or “analyzed” for 20 years. For most of that time, the project has laid dormant with no activity whatsoever. Many people thought it was dead. The project was kept on VDOT’s 6-Year Improvement Plan only at the insistence of downstate legislators, and it was only this spring that the McDonnell administration dusted it off and decided to revive it. It is not unreasonable to ask whether, in the intervening 20 years, conditions have changed sufficiently to warrant a fresh look at the project. What conditions? Like the development after years of study of an entirely new plan for the U.S. 29 corridor, “Places29.” $200 million is a whole lot of money to the Charlottesville area, and region won’t get that large of a sum again any time in the near future. I don’t blame citizens for wanting to make sure the money is spent well.

    What you have no sense of — because I haven’t had a chance to write about it yet — is that there are alternative ways to spend that $200 million, which arguably (I don’t know for certain because I haven’t completed the investigation) would relieve a lot more congestion than the Bypass would. The choice is not Bypass/No Bypass. The choice is Bypass/Alternate Improvements to the U.S. 29 Corridor.

  9. Does Virginia really use a staff of engineers to design a project in-house?

    Most other places have gone to keeping a small staff of engineers and contracting out to consulting firms the actual designs. The post above seems to indicate that they want to go from in-house design to “design-build” which is a huge leap.

    “Design-build” can sometimes be a good thing but it isn’t the savior that every proponent says it is. Even people well versed in the different delivery method will tell you that it requires a decision on each and every project. This is a type of delivery method that should be evaluated with other types of delivery methods and not used as a “one size fits all.”

  10. LarryG, Let me think about your request to open up a thread on Social Security. I want to be responsive, but I’m not sure how to handle it or even if it is suitable. If Groveton wants to slug it out with you, maybe I’ll do it.

  11. The design-build concept is interesting and should be tried in other locations, but under some controls. Design-build has been reasonable with both the Beltway HOT Lanes and Phase I of Dulles Rail. While both projects have some warts, putting responsibility for both project design and construction in a single entity seems to be working rather well.
    We need more openness and accountability in all aspects of Virginia government. The state FOIA has more holes in it than a candidate’s campaign promises. When school divisions must post all of their leases/contracts online, while large parts of the Dulles Rail contract can be redacted, something is wrong. Virginia needs to clean up its act, and on this one, the evil doers are exclusively the Clown Show. The General Assembly is disgraceful in this area.
    Build/no build. NIMBY or well-founded. Part of the problem here is the culture of VDOT. We are VDOT; we know what to do; and just get out of our way. That has been VDOT culture. There is an effort, at least in Fairfax County, for VDOT to get community input on big projects, before decisions are made, rather than fight for years with un-consulted stakeholders. The new chief, Garrett Moore, understands and has bee reaching out. He started with the Great Falls and McLean Citizens Associations, asking for input for widening Route 7 west of Tysons. The citizens have been working with VDOT and Fairfax County DOT, and also have expanded the stakeholder effort to include the Reston Citizens Association, the town of Vienna, a transportation group in Loudoun County and the Tysons Partnership (the Tysons landowners and developers). Their goal is not to tell VDOT what to build and how to build it, but to make recommendations as to what options VDOT should study. For example, reversible lanes on 7, HOV-transit lanes, etc. While this is a first shot, I would expect the process to work smoother when the stakeholders are involved from day one. Will everyone like the result? No, but it’s much better than VDOT using its road plan from the 1990s.

  12. PW, Rest assured that VDOT does not see “design-build” as a one-size-fits-all solution. When I talked to Whirley about it, he was very clear that it is preferable in some situations while design-bid-build is better in others.

  13. re: SS – I appreciate it Jm.. a lot of water has gone under than bridge since the word PONZI has entered the vernacular.

    re: design build – I like design build – it’s what private contractors use and in Va they are able to get a road from dirt to in use in two years.

    Look at at how they are moving with HOT Lanes in NoVa by working concurrently on the various sections rather than incrementally one section at a time which is what VDOT would often do in the past.

    but design-build using a 20-year old study is a recipe for disaster… lawsuits, change orders, cost overruns, etc.

    and design-build of a BYPASS ought to start with the question of why a bypass instead of access management and site-specific improvements.

    In the end – the question of which path is best – ought to be at least partially decided by the people whose homes and businesses will be impacted.

    and you can’t begin to do that with 20-year old data.

    if would be like saying you are going to design-build the Western Transportation Corridor – based on earlier study data.

    you’d be running that road right through subdivisions and businesses… built since that study was done.

    dumb. dumb. dumb.

  14. Mr. Bacon, I think I was more concerned about why the state is using in-house engineers for design work? At least I read it that way.

    Most public agencies and other state governments left that method years ago since it was not cost effective to do it in-house and support large staffs. Generally, engineering firms can also keep up with changing requirements and new techniques cheaper and better than in-house employees. In-house usually doesn’t have the time nor money to keep everyone up to date.

  15. I have to agree with groveton. Public participation has become code for unlimited special interest interference.

    That said, design build didn’t keep the public from screwing up what might have been a good project on the middleburg roundabouts. Public demand d for traffic calming meant the roundabouts are see at an angle to the road, creating an unnecessary chicane on entering and leaving each circle. I’m pretty certain the extra slowdown and extra friction wastes thousands of gallons of fuel every year. My mileage computer drops noticeably going through there.

    As for seperating local traffic and through traffic, what makes one more valuable than another?

    I think back to that poor couple that wanted to have a bed and breakfast and got positively ambushed at the public hearing. I imagine that fine old manor house is still sitting empty, probably used for pot parties by the children of folks that opposed the B&B.

  16. “Groveton, the Charlottesville Bypass has been on the books for nearly 20 years, but that does not mean it has been “studied” or “analyzed” for 20 years.”.

    In 1991 VDOT purchased some of the property required for the bypass. But the history continued well after that. For example …

    http://freeenterpriseforum.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/places29-dont-know-much-about-history/

    Jim, don’t believe everything you hear from the Places 29 crowd. And always ask them, “Are you telling me everything?”.

  17. re: “stranded VDOT money”… comes in part from buying rights-of-way before a project has final approval, eh?

    re: As for seperating local traffic and through traffic, what makes one more valuable than another?

    because the entire premise of the interstate highway system as to connect the country …. and allow people to go from one destination to another without having to get tied up in every city in between.

    the premise of the interstate system is the SAME premise being used to justify the 29 Bypass… that the ORIGINAL purpose of the ORIGINAL Rt 29 was to allow people in Va to get from point A to point B without getting tangled up in every town/city in between.. indeed that’s why they are called “Primary” roads.

    and what I’m saying is that you can’t whack at the Rt 29 bypass opponents in Charlottesville for impeding the premise behind having the bypass in the first place without also acknowledging that we have that same problem in other places – LIKE NoVa which despite interstate highways and beltways has become a serious impediment for East Coast travelers tying to get from one side of NoVa to the other.

    if we are going to have consistency in our policies – let’s by all means have consistency…. and not whack on Charlottesville while ignoring the same essential problem in other places.

    I actually support VDOT’s efforts at Access Management and FHWA effort to space interchanges and require upgrades when weaving between the interchanges gets to be a problem but recognize that the PRIMARY purpose of the Interstates was first to let people across the country and not 6-lane shortcuts from one part of town to another…

    and that’s what will happen to the Charlottesville Bypass if they don’t design it to not have that happen. Eventually it will become co-opted like the original Rt 29… by becoming a venue for development and a short-cut for intra-city travel… despite the justification why it’s needed right now.

    At what point do we recognize that bypasses don’t bypass like they were sold to do…?

  18. Some of the public opposition stems from reaction to VDOT’s traditional ways of operating. VDOT generally told people just what was going to happen like it or not. Since those people paid the taxes that funded VDOT, many tended to resent this approach and, as a result thereof, oppose VDOT’s projects. This was often compounded by VDOT’s presenting the same plans with no modification after public input.
    This results in long-standing resentment and automatic opposition to VDOT’s proposals. The opposition to Fluor-Lane and Transurban’s proposal to extend the HOT Lanes from Old Dominion to near the GW Parkway was kindled by old VDOT plans to widen the Beltway in a manner that was very different from what was proposed in 2010. But it didn’t matter. The spark was quickly an inferno that largely killed the project.
    VDOT seems to much more of a customer-friendly organization now. Over time, this should pay dividends with the public.
    The bigger problem now is still the CTB. It does not make funding decisions based on engineering and economics in the benefit of the public. It still serves its masters, landowners who want public money spent to build transportation facilities to enrich their holdings. It applies to roads and transit.
    The CTB is at the core of the current firestorm on DTR tolls. It was the entity that voted to make DTR drivers pay for the bulk of Dulles Rail, even though there is virtually no benefit for those drivers. We should get to vote for CTB members.

  19. I pretty much agree with TMT on all counts. the part of VDOT that handles new roads has a long-time reputation as an agency that (until I see differently) conducted itself in a “our way or the highway” behavior – as opposed to a legitimate process of looking at alternatives.

    The western transportation corridor is a good example.

    it’s this way of doing business that has attracted opposition and ultimately led to delays as the opposition often is able to expose glaring lapses in providing the information that NEPA requires to make an informed decision.

    NEPA basically requires that complete information be required in the analysis of alternatives… which leaves VDOT vulnerable to delays when they do not do that.

    That’s part of what happen in the Charlottesville case and what they are doing right now is an attempted end run – even as FHWA has told them that NEPA will be required…so VDOT is once again trying to rush the process and sometimes they get away with it and sometimes they do not.

    for those frustrated with delays… understand that states like North Carolina do not suffer the problems that VDOT does because they have a much more legitimate public and NEPA process.

    In terms of the unelected CTB … Virginia has a long history of NOT having a transparent road funding process that leads to silly things like NoVa accusing other localities of getting NoVa money even as the papers in Hampton Roads report that more money going to NoVa is why they can’t get their tunnels.

    I would fully expect VDOT to get dibs on some part of the 17.5 tax with which to build those roads of statewide significance and maintenance and ops but how much should be left to the localities and regions?

    we have no clue.. the only way to have some idea of how much some locality actually generates in gas tax is for the localities that belong to VRE – to look at how much money they generate from the 2.1% tax and then to work the calculation backs to gallons and then multiply times .175.

    Fairfax is one of the counties where this calculation could be done.
    In other words a number could be generated for Fairfax county for gas taxes generated by sales in that county.

    but as TMT points out – the biggest and strongest advocates of getting tranpo funding are land owners working their their local elected BOS to then tell the CTB what their “priorities” are.

    Almost none of those counties have an objective process to use metrics such as accidents and congestion to decide which projects to build.

    In fact, new infrastructure for greenfield development seems to be the rule not the exception.

    it’s really a bad system.

    ideally you’d want Fairfax (for example) deciding not only where to focus development but how to plan, build and fund the infrastructure to serve it but Fairfax like most of the other counties and regions in Va …believe with all their hearts that if they get the politics “right” that they’ll get the state to fund their development needs.

    so a good question is (for example) how much of Tysons would be really feasible with State and Fed money?

  20. The no-progress faction in Northern Virginia desperately wants to create the illusion that un-elected bodies are conspiring with big landowners to force major transit projects on NoVa citizens. This is pure fiction. In 1995, the Virginia General Assembly authorized the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) to provide for “additional improvements to the Dulles Toll Road and Dulles Access Road corridor… including, but not limited to, mass transit, including rail, and capacity-enhancing treatments… from surplus net revenues of the Dulles Toll Road”.

    The Clown Show said, “Do it” and it is being done.

    Those who oppose rail to Dulles should remember – All roads of dysfunction in Virginia lead directly back to the General Assembly.

  21. The no-progress faction in Northern Virginia desperately wants to create the illusion that un-elected bodies are conspiring with big landowners to force major transit projects on NoVa citizens. This is pure fiction.

    I agree with groveton on this, particularly in my own case. Government took substantial land from the farm to build a highway. Thanks to PEC and other anti growth factions, fifty years later the remainder of the farm has yet to benefit from the highway that was constructed. With one exception. The highway made it easier to drive long distances to someplace where I could earn money to bring back and spend supporting land that does basically nothing. Thank you PEC, and fyvm to my present and former supervisors.

    Today, I saw a neighboring farm with a sign advertising fresh pies. That is very nice, and also pathetic. But, the pie sales have increased, I’m sure, thanks to the tourist traffic brought on by the proliferation of wineries.

    Which the anti growth faction are also trying to shut down. ( two have gone under due to local interference and legal action).

    It would be nice if my pie selling neighbor’s used their own fruit or local fruit. In any case, this is supposed to be a farm, not a bakery.

    They need to sell around $8000 worth of pie, per acre, every twenty years, and that is just to support the land. Net, not gross. If the farm is 100 acres they need to sell $16 million in pie every 20 years, just to pay the land rent.

    Try hanks tell those folks how they made a killing as landowners when the highway we.t in and took half of it.

  22. re: the “no progress” folks

    I would assert that it is not road-building per se that has been pushed in NoVa.

    Clearly HOT LANES and other tolled roadways are very different from the “let’s get VDOT to build new “free” roads” and it was only months ago that Groveton railed against those tolls and Hydra is likely STILL vociferously opposed to tolls.

    I would ask .. if the current problems in NoVa have pushed transportation decision-makers TOWARDS TOLLS ?

    I would further ask if not the BEST WAY to PRESERVE a Charlottesville Bypass from being co-opted by developed is to TOLL IT?

    I’d be IN FAVOR of new bypasses and possibly even a new north-south corridor through NoVA as LONG AS it is TOLLED and that tolling effectively discourages the road from being used as a development venue.

    I’ve always maintained that the fundamental purpose of highways that justifies spending tax dollars on them is to provide transportation utility and functionality and it’s dumb to build new roads to then let them be slow destroyed by co-opting them for development.

    the whole entire idea of the interstates was the SAME IDEA of the original Rt 29 – not only through Charlottesville – but NoVa AND Lynchburg and look at what happened in all 3 locations.

    The taxpayers of Virginia built a bypass around Lynchburg and the taxpayers of the US have funded much of the transportation infrastructure of NoVa – not private development interests.

    here’s something that would be interesting to see – add up the cost of all the roads in NoVa and express it as a per capita number – and then use that same calculation for ROVA regions.

  23. Groveton as far as I know the CTB did, indeed, start talking about the DTR and rail back in the 199os. I think it might have been by Governor Wilder. If you look at the previous Comp Plan for Tysons, it includes an assumption of three stations in Tysons. Gerry Connolly had yet to add the SAIC station for his employer.
    It must also be noted that the DTR was built and tolls supported by the public based on a promise by one of the Toll Road’s chief proponents, Senator Omer Hirst, that, once the original bonds were paid, the Toll Road would be be free. Needless to say, the CTB revoked that promise.
    I don’t think anyone contemplated tolls that would be in excess of $10. I found a Washington Post article from March 1996 that discusses a $1.5 billion price tag to build the line to the Airport. That price tag is much different than what we see today.
    The line will be built, but I would not be surprised to see it go only to the Airport, with no additional stations beyond Phase I. The line could be constructed with station locations that could be added later. A couple of years ago, stations were about $50 million a pop. I think they are in the range of $65 million and up. With the coming cutbacks in defense spending, Fairfax County might well postpone the other stations,

  24. Also, everyone whines about the Feds’ share – $900 million. But that was 60% of the original price. The landowners would commit $400 million, leaving $200 million to be collected from DTR drivers. Over 20 years, that is $10 million per year.

  25. yes.. but how much is 900 million on a per capita basis for Fairfax?

    isn’t it $900?

    if that money was going to come from gas tax – remember that the average person who drives pays about $132 a year in gas taxes.

    that $900 was not paid by Fairfax citizens… it came from other taxpayers.

  26. The $900 M comes from the federal New Starts program. I suspect much of the money comes from Chinese lenders. LoL Should the federal government be funding mass transit? One argument in favor is the high ridership of federal employees. The Metrorail system does help the orderly coming and going of federal employees. On the other hand, the Tysons-Dulles Corridor focus of the Silver Line probably does not have much of a federal agency tie.
    One could make a strong argument that Metrorail should not have expanded, but rather, used its capital to rebuild an aging system. However, since Phase I of Dulles Rail is being constructed, that argument is moot. But now Gerry Connolly is talking about expanding Metrorail to Woodbridge. There are likely more efficient transit solutions to Woodbridge, e.g., BRT or even light rail. Gerry may be trying to shake down developers in southern Fairfax and eastern PW counties.

  27. ” One argument in favor is the high ridership of federal employees. ”

    huh? why should taxpayers from Kansas pay for Fed commuters in NoVa?

    how does that benefit taxpayers in Kansas?

    we take 3cents out of every dollar that folks in Kansas spent on gasoline and we put a fancy name on it “New Starts” and we then give it to Federal employees in NoVa.

    It’s not only the “new start” – it’s the transit subsidy that Federal employees also receive.

    the guy in Kansas is probably working 16 hour days trying to deal with his crops… and we’re taking money out of his pocket for govt workers in the DC area?

    can you see why the Tea Party exists?

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