Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: The News of Greater Falls Church

The region is reeling from a blow delivered by Federal Transit Administration (FTA) head James Simpson last week that the FTA was likely to declare the Rail to Dulles Project unfit for federal funding. An extension of Metrorail to the region’s premier, and growing, international airport, has been contemplated for more than four decades. During the last 10 years, major exploratory and design work was completed to move the project forward, and there was significant evidence that the project met all of the FTA’s New Starts evaluation criteria for federal funding.

In a letter on behalf of the Board of Supervisors to FTA Administrator Simpson, Chairman Gerry Connolly pointed out that the Dulles Corridor is the fastest growing area in the region, housing more than 2,300 private businesses with 250,000 employees. Six Fortune 500 companies have their national headquarters in the corridor, and serve the federal government in the defense, telecommunication, IT, and homeland security indus-tries. The federal government is a critical partner, along with the Commonwealth of Virginia, in meeting its responsibility for improving transportation for the entire National Capital Region. The project is cost-effective; costs have been verified by two independent contractors selected by the FTA. Both the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA) have the ability, respectively, to construct and operate the Metrorail project. Chairman Connolly’s letter exhorted Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and the FTA to take a closer look and reach the same conclusion that the Board and 90 percent of the residents of Northern Virginia have already reached – that the funding support of the federal government is crucial to the expansion of the Metrorail system to Dulles. A motion to approve the language of the Chairman’s letter passed: six yeas, three nays, and one abstention. A substitute motion by Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) to scrap the Rail to Dulles project in favor of a bus rapid transit system failed by a vote of 2 to 8.

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With no clear favorite in either political party, the Virginia presidential primary on February 12 could give Virginia voters an important role in the selection of the 2008 presidential candidates. For the first time in many years, both major political parties will field candidates in the primary. Voters in Virginia do not register by party, but voters must select whether they wish to vote a Democratic or Republican ballot. Fairfax County voters may vote at their regular polling place on Tuesday, February 12, from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m., or you may vote absentee by mail or in-person. Absentee ballot applications are available on-line at www.fairfaxcounty.gov, and at county government centers and libraries. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot by mail is February 5. You may vote absentee in-person at the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 323, in Fairfax: Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., or Saturday, February 9, the last day to vote in-person absentee, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Your vote is important, so don’t forget to vote!