The current effort to build the rail line to Dulles airport is ill-advised and will only worsen our traffic problems. There have been many bad decisions along the way, but two recent decisions highlight the fundamental problem:
- The MWAA board decided (11-2) to mandate a Project Labor Agreement and therefore mandate union wages and benefits; this is expected to increase the costs for phase two by 12-18%, or $360 - $540 million.
- The MWAA board decided (9-4) to opt for an underground station at Dulles Airport rather than the less expensive above-ground option that all local counties favored. This increased cost by $300 - $600 million.
These two decisions add roughly $1 billion to the project costs while providing minimal value. But what is more interesting is who is making these decisions and who is paying for them. The majority of the MWAA board is appointed by out-of-state politicians. It is made up of five members appointed by the governor of Virginia, three by the mayor of DC, three by the President of the United States, and two by the governor of Maryland. However, a recent report by the RCA Reston 2020 committee revealed that 75% of these costs will be borne by Dulles Toll Road users. In other words, the MWAA board has been given the ability to impose unlimited taxes on a group of people that they do not represent.
The result is that the tolls will continually rise until the round-trip toll reaches roughly $30! Not surprisingly, these studies also suggest that usage of the toll road will decrease by 15% with the extra traffic being added to other local roads, mainly Route 7 and I-66, both already at or near capacity during most of the day.
The solution to this sort of problem is simple. Fully return the decision-making and taxing authority to locally elected government officials. They will be the most sensitive to the needs and concerns of the people. It is a simple philosophy that our founding fathers knew well, but one that we have drifted away from.