VRE must expand, it is Manifest Destiny…

VRE is spending another $2.4 million to study its proposed extension to Haymarket, despite the town’s official opposition to becoming an end-of-line community that gets extra traffic congestion.     This new study’s cost is covered by a grant from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, plus the private railroad.  (Norfolk Southern expects VRE to pay for double-tracking a portion of the Manassas-Front Royal rail line.)

The latest financial statement for VRE shows revenues of $26 million in the year ending June 30, 2009.  Operating expenses were over $50 million.  (See page 19 for the details.)  

If passengers pay only 50% of the cost of operating VRE… who covers the rest? 
$13+ million – subsidies from Commonwealth of Virginia
$12+ million – subsidies from Federal government
$17+ million – subsidies from local cities/counties 

In addition, VRE received state and Federal grants for capital equipment, and Federal agencies gave employees another subsidy for paying transit costs through the Transit Subsidy Program.

Prince William County takes advantage of its authority, as a member of the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC), to add a 2.1% tax on wholesale gasoline sales.  That’s how the county raised the $6+ million that it contributed as its subsidy in 2009, when Prince William contributed the most of any local jurisdiction.

Some people suggest extending the VRE won’t cost county taxpayers a penny.  In their logic, the Federal government will cover 100% of the capital costs (new track, new rail cars, new locomotives) of extending VRE, and 100% of the additional annual operating and maintenance (O&M) costs for running trains on the extension, because some of the commuters work for Federal agencies. 

The same rationale is applied to claims that we can extend the Blue Line of Metro to Woodbridge, and the Orange Line to Gainesville, at no extra cost to Prince William residents.  Relax, trust our politicians – there’s a free lunch, and we’re going to get free transportation improvements in Prince William too.

Are you holding your breath and expecting 49 other states and 138 other jurisdictions in Virginia to be so generous to Prince William?  Or are you holding your wallet, and waiting to hear “uh, we will need more Prince William taxes to expand VRE”? 

One thing you should not expect to hear the VRE-must-expand-because-more-is-better advocates say: “we must extend VRE so we can send even more Prince William workers to jobs located in Fairfax/DC, which will benefit from increased commercial property taxes while Prince Willian stays trapped as a commuter suburb with perpetually high taxes on residential property.”


No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: