Ferguson requests new Dulles Rail Environmental Impact Statement

October 11, 2011

Peter M. Rogoff
Federal Transit Administrator
US Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

John E. Potter
President and Chief Executive Officer
Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority
1 Aviation Circle
Washington, DC 20001-6000

Dear Messrs. Rogoff & Potter:

On behalf of American Tradition Partnership’s large and growing grassroots membership, we request that, prior to committing federal funds to finance portions of the Dulles Rail Phase 2 project, the project partners including the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), Fairfax County and Loudoun County research and complete a new Dulles Rail Environmental Impact Statement.

Data in the draft Dulles Rail Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), was prepared in 2002 or earlier and a final report issued in 2004.  That EIS is clearly stale and does not reflect physical and socio-economic conditions prevailing in 2011 in the project area or during the timeframe of proposed Phase 2 construction and operations.

For instance, in Loudoun County (LC), housing construction boomed in the period 2000 to 2005, with over 6,000 annual housing unit completions there. In 2009 and 2010, annual LC housing completions averaged only approximately 2,000 units annually. Drastic down-zoning has occurred in LC since 2002. As a result, the projected resident LC population at build-out has been reduced from over 1 million persons forecast in 2002 to the below 500,000 persons forecast today.

The net result of LC downzoning, plus deteriorated economic conditions in the project area, is that the feasibility of Phase 2 Dulles Rail, which did not meet Federal Transit Administration ridership demand criteria in 2002, is now greatly diminished. The probable current rail ridership forecasts for the next 30+ years for Phase 2 are vastly below those made in 2002, when only 10,000 net new transit trips were forecast for all of Dulles Rail, most of which will occur in Phase 1.

The existing EIS failed to evaluate and report on the induced commercial and residential development resulting in the project area from Dulles rail construction and operations. The increased zoning densities provided for under an approved 2010 revised Tysons Corner Comprehensive Plan will require $$Billions in additional taxpayer funding for infrastructure improvements around transit stations.

The EIS failed to investigate financing and funding alternatives to construct and operate Dulles Rail. No public notice and public hearing was ever held on the adopted Phase 1 financial structure either prior to the Full Funding Grant agreement executed on March 10, 2009 or subsequently. Most MWAA Board meetings on Dulles Rail financing and toll increases were held in Executive session. The massive Dulles Toll Road (DTR) toll increases now proposed were first publicly disclosed on June 23, 2009 at a meeting of the Dulles Corridor Advisory Committee (DCAC). The DCAC last met on November 18, 2010 under conditions that clearly demonstrated that MWAA is avoiding timely public access to and disclosure of cost increases and other problems associated with the Dulles Rail project.

Once operations of Phase 1 commence, inevitably some demand shift from autos to transit will occur. However a far larger adverse consequence of drastic DTR toll increases forecasted by MWAA to increase to a range of $15.41 to $17.92 each way by 2043 to finance the rapidly spiraling Dulles Rail costs will push many auto commuters onto Route 7, Route 50, I-66 and local roads, increasing congestion and auto emissions. The financial and travel consequences to those who rely on the DTR to get to work should be included in the new EIS.

We are also concerned with the manner in which outdated cost estimates are being provided to the public. Last month, Mr. Potter told a representative of the Dulles Corridor Users Group that “the July 11, 2011 toll forecasts are outdated because cost estimates have been revised.” Even worse, USDOT officials have repeatedly, willfully and knowingly violated President Obama’s “open government” regulatory policies. A series of six meetings about Phase 2 has occurred since May 2011 between USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood, FTA Administrator Rogoff, MWAA and other Dulles Rail partners. Administrator Rogoff has not responded to repeated requests to attend these meetings by those representing DTR users, who are earmarked by bureaucrats to pay 75% of Phase 2 costs. The USDOT has repeatedly failed to comply with the “open government” regulations by holding private meetings on Phase 2.

ATP is the nation’s largest grassroots-supported advocate for rational energy and environmental policies. Along with our partner American Tradition Institute, known for their current court cases seeking public information from NASA and the University of Virginia, ATP is aggressively seeking transparency and rational policymaking from officials across the country.

The Dulles Rail project and its many problems deeply concern our members, who demand accountability, and local residents, who demand wiser use of their tax dollars.

A new and properly conducted Environmental Impact Statement, based on accurate data and current conditions with all assumptions made disclosed and properly justified, would be an important first step in bringing some measure of transparency to this troubled project.

We look forward to your prompt response and steps taken by USDOT and MWAA to conduct a new Dulles Rail EIS.

Sincerely,

DONALD E. FERGUSON
Executive Director
American Tradition Partnership

Donald.F@AmericanTradition.org
www.AmericanTradition.org

CC:  Sean Connaughton, Secretary, Virginia Department of Transportation
Thelma Drake, Administrator, Department of Rail and Public Transportation
Sharon Bulova, Chairman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors
Scott York, Chairman, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors
Congressman Frank Wolf
Media contacts