In the nine-member, all-Republican Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, there were only four sure “yes” votes to fund the Silver Line extension to Loudoun. Five were needed. Supporters of the project were hoping for a ”yes” from an unlikely source, Ken Reid (R-Leesburg), who once actively campaigned against Dulles rail.
And on Tuesday morning, Reid did vote “yes,” contrary to the wishes of many conservatives in Loudoun who felt that it would be too costly, not bring sizable economic benefit to the county and would tie Loudoun to the, er, questionable operations and financial skills of Metro. Our full story is here. After the board meeting, I asked Reid how he became the swing vote for the Silver Line to Loudoun:
Didn’t you have a ‘No to Metro’ sticker on your car? What changed?
“You saw my car? Over the last month or so, I have pretty much told the activists who were against rail that if we could initiate a special tax district in Ashburn, then I would support opting in. I’ve made that very, very clear. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that too many people have stars in their eyes about what this is going to do. We know this is not going to do anything for traffic. The amount of people going to use it are not big compared to overall commuting. The economic benefits are around Ashburn and the stations. If you’re a homeowner, you’ll see a 6.9 percent increase in value if you’re within a half-mile radius of the station.
“So what we did is we got the process set up to do this service district. It was one of the things that was not shot down by the [Virginia Supreme] Court when the court ruled that the transportation funding bill signed by [then-Gov.] Tim Kaine was unconstitutional. These transportation tax districts allow you to pay for operations, maintenance and construction. This is going to pay for operations and maintenance in perpetuity. So when Metro comes to us with hat in hand, saying they need more rail cars or escalators, this tax district will pay for it.
What repercussions do you expect from your vote?
“People are already threatening to run an opponent against me. People have been threatening.”
“Because a lot of conservative activists and residents of Leesburg think it’s a bad deal. I was an activist too. And I know what it means to taste defeat. I was devastated when I was working to stop Dulles rail, and it kept coming. I stopped my activities on Dulles rail because it was getting so frustrating. So I know how they feel...
“The high tolls are still looming out there. The state has been trying to restructure the debt. The feds are the people who need to step up to the plate.
“This also has an impact on Maryland commuters. Virginia and Maryland did a study that showed 30 percent of people who use the Dulles Toll Road are from Maryland. They’re going to be paying the high tolls. The problem is the project doesn’t have a good bond rating.
“People have been saying they’re going to give to whatever opponent comes forward.”
Your next election isn’t for three years. What will you say to people about this then?
“By then, the first leg will be open. The tax district will be in place. If the Board has cold feet and backs out of the the tax district, then they are supporting a tax increase for the whole county.
“I wanted to put it to a referendum. I think the county is in favor of the thing...
“I’m a realist. I don’t think it’s going to get the ridership people think it’s going to get. The cost is on the commercial property owners in Ashburn. Not just for construction, but operation and maintenance.
“When I’ve called Leesburg residents, and I explain it to them, they understand. But I think there are a number of people in the Republican party who are very angry with me. They are afraid of the way Metro is run and I don’t blame them. Metro is a problem...
”In Loudoun, we pay for 2.9 percent of the system, and 4.8 percent of this project. And we’ll be using the service district for that.”
Will this tax district scare businesses away?
“Business will have a chance to meet with us. With the Route 28 and Dulles rail tax districts, there were no complaints. Businesses in this area, they pretty much feel they will support it. The people who own property around the stations support it. ..
“I think our review period really helped a lot. I think it helped make the project better and helped generate skepticism. The opt-out group has a lot of names of people to get to the table in the future.”
POLL: Do you agree with Loudoun’s decision to fund the Silver Line? Vote here.
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