The all-Republican board has until early July to decide whether the county is in or out. If the board votes in favor, Loudoun would get two Metro stations west of the airport and a huge lift to its economic prospects. If it votes nay, that will be enough to postpone — possibly for a year or two — the project’s 11-mile second phase.
In the worst-case scenario, postponement could kill the deal. At the very least, it would, as Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton has said, put it back to square one, forcing fresh legal and financial arrangements and possibly a new environmental study for what would be a reconfigured project.
Even if the pieces were put back together, the region would lose valuable time — and probably miss out on the exceptionally low construction costs and interest rates available now.
The ostensible cause for Loudoun’s wavering is cost. The county would be on the hook for $275 million for the Silver Line’s construction, or 4.8 percent of the overall price tag, plus some $16 million annually in subsidies for Metro once the line is operating.
When Metro officials appeared before the board in Loudoun the other day, they got a grilling from supervisors — by turns distrustful, aggressive and confused — who seemed to think that the Silver Line’s costs were understated and the benefits uncertain. In fact, the costs are modest measured against Metro’s potential for supercharging the county’s economic growth, which is why virtually every major business group in Loudoun supports it.
According to Stephen S. Fuller, director of George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis, extending the Silver Line into Loudoun would make the difference between the county continuing mainly as a bedroom community that exports workers into neighboring jurisdictions and transforming part of it into a employment magnet for highly educated and well-paid professionals.
In fact, said Mr. Fuller, if Loudoun turns its back on Metro, the county would sacrifice more than $55 billion in potential economic activity, and some 40,000 jobs, by 2040, and its rate of growth would be 10 percent slower. Should the effort to connect Loudoun by Metro to the employment centers nearby fail, “those jobs would go to Reston or Tysons Corner” or be lost to the Washington metropolitan area, Mr. Fuller told us.