Author: Winstina Hughes

Fairfax board votes to move forward on Seven Corners redevelopment

After hours of discussion and debate Tuesday that stretched toward midnight, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted 8-1, with one member absent, to move forward with an ambitious redevelopment plan for the traffic-choked Seven Corners area.

The plan would create three villages and add several thousand homes to the area, along with restaurants, shops and a street grid that could draw local traffic away from the confusing Seven Corners intersection.

The board argued over affordable housing and density before the vote on proposed changes to county planning guidelines, changes that would allow the redevelopment to take place.

“I do not think that there is value in deferring this any longer,” said Supervisor Penelope A. Gross (D-Mason), who represents the area and was referring to a nearly three-year-long community discussion marked by intense debate.

Residents of the neighborhoods of single-family homes that surround Seven Corners have opposed some aspects of the plan, saying it would lead to increased density and worsen traffic in the area, home to the Seven Corners Shopping Center.

This month, the county’s Planning Commission adopted an amended version of the original plan in an attempt to address community concerns. Although the revised plan reduced the number of new houses and apartments by several hundred units — bringing the total closer to 5,000 — it still generated worries.

During the hearing, about 40 people lined up inside the Fairfax County Government Center to express both support and concerns about the plan.

“Density, particularly residential density, must not be so high that the accompanying people overwhelm the support-services system, particularly schools and transportation,” James Kilbourne, president of the Lake Barcroft homeowners association, said to applause.

County officials say the plan’s latest version makes several compromises in response to community concerns, including worries about school crowding that would result from adding more residents.

The site of the former Willston Elementary School would also feature a second building that would house a day-care center, social services for school families and the multicultural center, Gross said.

“That is going to be many years in the future, because there is no money right now,” Gross said, referring to the idea of a new “urban-style school” inside a high-rise building. “But we are committed.”

Gross said the overall redevelopment plan is an attempt to bring new life to an area of Fairfax that has become worn in the years since the Seven Corners Shopping Center was a regional draw in the 1950s and 1960s. She called it a road map for what the county will look like in the next 50 years.

“We need to make sure that whole area is ready for all the newcomers who are going to be coming here,” Gross said. “We need to make sure that the community that is being developed is what they would like to live in.”

Urban-planning groups say the kind of walkable, transit-friendly communities envisioned for Seven Corners are needed in aging suburbs that have become homes to mostly vacant office buildings and discount stores with little commercial traffic.

“The future of Fairfax lies in these aging commercial corridors,” said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “It certainly can be a win-win and enhance Fairfax’s competitiveness.”

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Fairfax board to vote on Seven Corners plan that has sparked heated debate

Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors is expected to vote Tuesday on whether to move forward with an ambitious redevelopment plan for the traffic-choked Seven Corners area.

The plan to create three villages in the area would add several thousand new homes to the neighborhood, along with restaurants and shops and a new grid of streets that could draw local traffic away from the confusing Seven Corners intersection that is often backed up with cars and trucks.

Tuesday’s vote would addresses changes to county planning guidelines for Seven Corners that would allow the redevelopment to happen.

Residents from the neighborhoods of single-family homes that surround Seven Corners have opposed some aspects of the plan, arguing that it would bring in too much density and worsen traffic in the area, which is home to the Seven Corners Shopping Center.

Earlier this month, the county planning commission passed an amended version of the original plan that attempted to address community concerns. Though the plan’s new version reduced by several hundred units the overall number of new homes and apartments to be created – bringing the total closer to 5,000 — it still faces some opposition.

“It’s trending in the right direction, but if you talk to people and say it’s 5,000 units . . . in the Seven Corners area, they go: Whoa,” said Marty Machowsky, a local homeowner who who plans to testify during a public hearing scheduled Tuesday before the vote.

“How many total people does that mean and how many more cars will that generate?” Machowsky said. “We can hardly get through the Seven Corners area on a Saturday now.”

County officials say the plan’s latest version makes several compromises in response to community concerns. Among them are worries about school overcrowding that would result from adding more residents.

County executive Edward L. Long and Fairfax schools superintendent Karen Garza have agreed to work toward building a new school on the site of a former elementary school in the area that is now home to a multicultural center serving low-income immigrants who live nearby, officials said.

The site of the former Willston Elementary School would also feature a second building that would house a day care, social services for school families and the multicultural center, said Supervisor Penelope A. Gross (D-Mason,) who represents the area.

“That is going to be many years in the future because there is no money right now,” Gross said, about the idea of a new “urban-style school” inside a high-rise building. “But we are committed.”

Gross said the overall redevelopment plan is an attempt to bring new life to an area of Fairfax County that has been worn down since the Seven Corners mall was a regional draw for shoppers during the 1950s and ‘60s. She called it a road map for what Fairfax County will look like in the next 50 years.

“We need to make that whole area is ready for all the newcomers who are going to be coming here,” Gross said. “We need to make sure that the community that is being developed is what they would like to live in.”

Urban planning groups say the kind of walkable, transit-friendly communities envisioned for Seven Corners are needed in aging suburbs that have become homes to mostly vacant office buildings and discount stores with little commercial traffic.

“The future of Fairfax lies in these aging commercial corridors,” said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smart Growth. “It certainly can be a win-win and enhance Fairfax’s competitiveness.”

Michelle Krocker, who heads the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance, said there aren’t enough guarantees in the plan to keep lower-income families from being pushed out, which could have long-term repercussions for the Washington region.

“If there’s no place for them to live affordably, we potentially lose them as employees in the area or they move far out into the hinterlands,” Krocker said. “And, then they’d have to commute in, and that’s problematic for everybody.”

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Testimony: Seven Corners Community Business Center (CBC)

Chairman Bulova and members of the Board, the Coalition for Smarter Growth strongly supports the Seven Corners Plan but we also have equally strong recommendations. Our reasons for support are as follows: First, if not here then where? Fairfax will continue to grow and the best way to grow without impacting single family home neighborhoods is in the county’s commercial corridors.

D.C.-area motorists lose their ‘gunslinger’

For 21 years, Lon Anderson has considered himself a “gunslinger” against traffic jams, a “gladiator” against drunken driving and the “staunch defender” of nearly 4 million beleaguered motorists.

As director of public and governmental relations for AAA Mid-Atlantic, Anderson has been the Washington region’s most visible and influential motorist advocate, verbally flogging area governments to crack down on unsafe drivers, fix dangerous roads and ease some of the worst gridlock in the nation. His weapon: catchy, go-for-the-throat sound bites that the media — and lawmakers — simply can’t ignore.

He’s accused “money-grubbing” District officials of turning one particularly profitable speed camera into “an old-fashioned, money-making, motorist rip-off speed trap right out of ‘The Dukes of Hazzard.’ ” Public officials in “Rip Van Maryland,” he says, have snoozed while Virginia has added express toll lanes to the Capital Beltway and built the Silver Line Metrorail extension.

His table-smacking interjections of “Outrageous!” have drawn gavel-pounding from legislative committee chairmen and earned him the nickname “the reverend.” Friends describe him as passionate — and laughingly agree with one veteran transportation journalist’s description of Anderson years ago as “the Billy Graham of the roadgangers.”

“He’s been a real mainstay in the region and one of the main voices for better transportation,” said former Montgomery county executive Doug Duncan (D). “A lot of people complain about it, but very few people advocate for solutions. He’s been that voice for a long, long time.”

Anderson, 66, is set to retire from AAA at the end of this month, but not before he lets a few more zingers fly at the government agencies he blames for the Washington area’s teeth-gnashing traffic.

“You don’t get to have the worst congestion in the United States without decades of bad decisions,” he said recently at AAA Mid-Atlantic’s offices in downtown D.C. “If they make a bad decision, I’m going to pounce on it and throw a punch.”

Yes, cycling has surged in the District, and suburbs are seeing millennials and empty-nester baby boomers gravitate to more walkable, transit-oriented communities so they can drive less — or not own a car at all.

But 72 percent of Washington-area residents still commute by car, and another 12 percent who use carpools or buses also rely on the roads. While many people think of AAA as a roadside assistance service, it also is one of the most influential advocacy groups in transportation politics. Anderson reminds politicians that his group represents 3.7 million motorists in the District, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“On the power index, he was at the higher end,” said Jim Dinegar, president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. “He represented a very powerful group, and he gave voice to it. . . . If, by God, Lon opposed your legislation, he’d come at you with everything AAA had — and that was quite a bit. And if he supported you, he’d throw the full weight of the organization behind you.”

Anderson has his detractors, mostly among transit and cycling advocates who clashed with him over street space for bike lanes and his calls for another Potomac River crossing beyond the chronically congested American Legion Bridge.

Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition For Smarter Growth, said Anderson is “very good with a quip” but “out of date” on transportation policy. Schwartz said the “outer Beltway” bridge Anderson wants would suck up billions of dollars needed for mass transit and lead to more sprawl development and, in turn, more traffic.

“Almost more than anyone else,” Schwartz said, “he’s never met a highway he didn’t like.”

Moreover, Schwartz said, Anderson has had an “inherent conflict of interest” because AAA relies on dues-paying motorists.

“That means he’ll support policies that result in more people driving more,” Schwartz said. “That could color your comments on transportation policy.”

But others say they have seen Anderson, along with AAA Mid-Atlantic, evolve from no-holds-barred road advocates to supporters of a more balanced approach that includes the need for better transit and pedestrian and bike safety. AAA Mid-Atlantic supported construction of the Silver Line and has embraced plans for a light-rail Purple Line in Maryland.

“I think there was an evolution in his thinking,” said David Snyder, vice mayor of Falls Church and a longtime member of the region’s Transportation Planning Board. “The reality is you can’t simply put down more asphalt.”

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), another longtime transportation board member, said Anderson and his group became “less strident” over the years.

“I think they realized that if you want to drive your car,” Mendelson said, “the whole system has to work.”

The way Anderson sees it: More people riding mass transit means fewer clogging the roads for those who have to drive. In turn, more free-flowing roads provide better transit service for bus passengers. He notes that he’s an avid walker — he works to get in his 10,000 steps daily — and that AAA Mid-Atlantic recently extended its roadside assistance program to bicyclists.

“But will walking and cycling replace the need for roads to offer mobility to cars and buses?” Anderson said. “No. . . . And transit can’t replace the need for automobiles.”

Anderson has had much of his influence as a vocal critic. One of his biggest beefs: His belief that the District government has declared “war on motorists” by placing some speed cameras to make money for the city rather than improve safety. The number of parking tickets the city writes also gets him riled up.

“People come to Washington to see the cherry blossoms,” he said in a booming voice, “but they have a better chance of seeing pink [citations] under their windshield wiper.”

He is unapologetic about seeking media coverage to promote his group’s agenda. He said he knows from his early years as a journalist — he was a reporter for the Frederick News-Post and once owned a weekly newspaper in Damascus — what reporters are looking for: accurate, quick information and frank quotes.

He made himself so available to reporters that his wife, Claudia Tidwell, said she is most excited at the prospect of soon dining out without her husband leaving the table for a restaurant parking lot interview.

“This is a town where everyone wants to be in the media and be quoted,” Anderson said. “If you want to rise above the chatter, you’ve got to be good.”

His biggest disappointment: leaving the job without persuading Virginia lawmakers to make driving without a seat belt a primary offense. Under current law, police can only cite motorists for failure to wear a seat belt if they stop them for another violation first.

Among his proudest accomplishments: persuading Maryland lawmakers to strengthen the state’s vehicular homicide law and leading a successful campaign in the 1990s for safety barriers on the George Washington Parkway after a string of fatal head-on collisions.

Addressing his team of 16 AAA employees at his recent retirement party, Anderson grew teary and barely choked out, “We’ve saved a lot of lives.”

Anderson said he and his wife will move soon from Silver Spring to West Virginia, where they plan to spend more time hiking in the mountains than stewing in traffic. He might even try his hand at blogging.

“I think,” he said, “I still have a few things to say.”

Robert Thomson contributed to this report.

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Prince George’s hospital plan approved by county, awaits key state clearance

It could be at least four years before a proposed regional hospital and medical campus opens at Largo Town Center, but the central Prince George’s community is already bracing for a development that could boost health-care options as well as the overall local economy.

Officials hope it lives up to their vision of creating a more urban, pedestrian-friendly community.

The $650 million, 231-bed hospital, which is under state and county review, promises to deliver a more urban street grid with smaller blocks to encourage foot and bicycle travel around what is primarily a car-oriented Metro station just outside the Capital Beltway.

Residents and transit advocates say the project, which has a tentative 2019 opening, can’t come soon enough to an area known for its big boulevards, giant parking lots and bus stops on sidewalk-free roads. They say the proposal offers the type of transit-oriented development that they have long sought.

“We have fought this battle for more years than I care to think about. This plan brings us far closer to where we need to be,” Chuck Renninger, president of the Largo Civic Association, told county officials discussing the project last month. “We need to get phase one up and operational as quickly as possible so that phase two and three can come quick enough.”

Recently, the project received the county planning commission’s blessing to move toward construction, an important step in the county’s land-use approval process. The realization of the project, however, is still contingent on a crucial state review that has already dragged on for a year longer than the county had hoped.

Maryland’s health-care commission must sign off on a “certificate of need,” which includes design plans and financial projections. After going back and forth with the applicant for a year, the commission finally docketed the case in April and the panel is weighing the needs, benefits and competition created by building the hospital. As part of the review, the commission is considering the concerns of two hospitals protesting the project’s scale.

A step to sway statistics
For the county, however, building the medical facility is the first step in remedying pressing health-care disparities for its residents, who have long complained about having to travel outside the county for care because of the limited options.

The new facility, which would be operated by the University of Maryland Medical System, would help tackle statistics that show Prince George’s residents have higher rates of chronic diseases — including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, asthma and cancer — than people in neighboring counties. Studies also suggest that the county’s mortality rate is higher than that of Montgomery and Howard counties.

The new medical campus would replace the 100-bed Prince George’s Hospital Center in
Cheverly, which has struggled financially and requires frequent subsidies from the state and county. It would have a 10-story building at the center, housing an ambulatory care center, a cancer center, a women-and-children’s center and a resident program.

The project “represents turning a page on a chapter that has been, in a lot of ways, a drag on the county,” Brad Frome, an economic development aide to County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), told the planning commission last month, citing the conditions of the existing hospital. “This is really a foundation stone for the creation of a new health-care system that we look to have in the county.”

Later phases would bring more medical offices, a nursing home, hotels and more housing around it, officials say, touting the project as a driver for economic development promising to revive the Boulevard at the Capital Centre, which has struggled for years to fill and keep storefronts open.

The hospital project could spur $3 billion in economic activity for Prince George’s, according to a recent report that suggests it could help build a mixed-use development around the Largo Town Center Metro station that includes about 3 million square feet of commercial space, nearly 1 million square feet of retail, 653 hotel rooms, a 150-bed nursing home and more than 4,000 residential units.

At build-out, that means $150 million in state and local tax revenue, 16,000 new jobs and 4,340 households with an estimated $312.5 million in income, according to the report.

Approval hurdles
The project is expected to move through the county’s approval process without delay by early fall, which leaves state approval as the main hurdle between now and its projected 2019 opening.

The state commission docketed the case in April. A commissioner is expected to review it soon and could make a recommendation by the end of the year.

As part of its review, the commission is considering comments from Doctors Community Hospital and Anne Arundel Medical Center. Both oppose the size of the project, citing its potential impact on their operations.

Doctors Community, a 218-bed facility in Lanham, about six miles from the proposed medical center, estimates that it would lose nearly 400 admissions annually. Fewer admissions could lead to a shortfall of more than $1 million annually, the hospital said.

“A new hospital is needed, but the right hospital, not this proposal,” Doctors Community attorneys Peter P. Parvis and Jennifer J. Coyne said in a May 4 letter to the state panel. The Prince George’s Regional Medical Center “did not meet its burden of proving that the need for a hospital this large and this expensive exists, or that the hospital is financially feasible.”

Anne Arundel Medical Center, the third-busiest hospital in Maryland with 384 beds and an emergency heart-attack-response center about 22 miles east of the Largo site, cites the county’s “difficulty attracting and retaining a strong medical community of physicians.” The center estimates the project will result in
420 fewer discharges and questions the proposed cardiac surgery services at the new facility.

Thomas Himler, budget director for Prince George’s, said the new facility hopes to attract county residents who seek medical care elsewhere in Maryland, the District and Northern Virginia. Despite the objections of the two competing hospitals, he said, the county expects approval by the end of the year.

The medical center is tied to about 26 acres immediately east of the Boulevard at the Capital Centre, adjacent to the Largo Town Center Metro station and just off the Capital Beltway, north of Central Avenue. It would be funded with $450 million in bond financing, including about
$200 million each from the state and the county.

Transit potential
At the center of all that growth is the Metro station, which opened in 2004 as the Blue Line’s eastern-most terminal. The new Silver Line also ends there. Although the station now ranks in the bottom half in the system in terms of performance and has nearly 5,000 daily passenger boardings, it has the capacity to handle significant ridership growth, officials say.

Largo has the potential to be an example of successful transit-oriented development in a county that has 15 vastly underdeveloped Metro stations, planners and transit officials say. The community could develop into a downtownlike area similar to Silver Spring, with a large medical community anchoring diverse business and housing options. The housing stock is already growing, with at least one multifamily complex under construction across the street from the hospital site.

Having the hospital less than a quarter-mile from the Metro platform would make it an attractive choice for workers and patients, officials say.

Margaret Bowles, 75, a retired teacher who lives about three miles from the hospital site, said she goes to Holy Cross Hospital in Montgomery County for specialty care and has friends who travel to the District for health care.

“People go down to George Washington [University Medical Center] and they never take their car. They hop on the Metro and go downtown because the Metro stop is right there. It is perfect,” she said. “Before this project, we had not had the vision that we probably should have for development around the Metro station.”

The success, she said, hinges on building it right, with pedestrians, cyclists and motorists in mind.

The county-approved plan calls for sidewalks along both sides of the Boulevard, Arena Drive and Lottsford Road. Pedestrian plazas, seating areas and bicycle pathways also are part of the design. County planners said the streets will be narrow to foster a pedestrian-friendly environment.

Advocates for transit-oriented development, including Metro and the nonprofit Coalition for Smarter Growth, have pushed for wide, well-lit pathways connecting the station to the hospital and the surrounding commercial spaces to make it as easy as possible for workers and patients to take transit.

“Having a very large employment center at the station will absolutely change that ridership at Largo,” said Stan Wall, Metro’s director of real estate and planning, noting that the project also could benefit Metro’s plans to eventually develop 12 acres of land it owns at the site.

The medical center alone could generate 650 new daily entries at the Metro station, according to the transit agency’s office of planning. That would mean $750,000 in new revenue for the transit agency. But even more riders and revenue would stem from the development that would follow the hospital construction, Wall said.

Cheryl Cort, policy director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth, agrees that keeping in mind the pedestrian and bike traffic will ensure good circulation between the hospital’s front door, Metro and the shops at the Boulevard at the Capital Centre.

“We want to make sure it’s done to the full benefit,” she said.

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How an international market explains Virginia’s changing demographics

One recent afternoon, Hye No and his wife were wheeling a shopping cart to their car at New Grand Mart in Midlothian, a Richmond suburb. They had just finished buying groceries at an international food supermarket that opened May 8, featuring aisles stocked with Asian and Hispanic specialties. “They have any type of fish there, and it’s fresh,” says No, who emigrated from South Korea to the town of Chester in 1984.

The Nos may represent a quiet but crucial change underway in Virginia. Over time, richer, better-educated minorities are emerging as economic opportunities have spread from Northern Virginia to other areas, mostly metropolitan suburbs. As lucrative jobs attract them, the political nature of the state will change as well.

A recent study shows just how opportunity is improving in Virginia for diverse groups. The Center for Opportunity Urbanism surveyed 52 cities and ranked people of African American, Asian and Hispanic descent in such categories as income, homeownership and population and income growth.

The Washington area, including Northern Virginia, comes out fairly well in the tally. The surprise is that Richmond and Virginia Beach-Norfolk consistently come in with strong rankings. Overall, in best-city ratings for African Americans, the District came in No. 3 and Virginia Beach-Norfolk was No. 6. For Asians, Richmond was No. 2 and the District was No. 3. For Hispanics, the District came in No. 5 and Virginia Beach-Norfolk was No. 6.

Richmond and Virginia Beach-Norfolk also scored well for minorities in homeownership rates, income and population growth. Other big winners were Atlanta and Raleigh, N.C.

This is not to say that the problems of minority poverty are over — far from it. Inner-city and mostly African American parts of Richmond have poverty rates of 26 percent, among the highest in the state. Inner suburbs are drawing poorer families.

Report authors Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox do have a distinct point of view. Houston developers fund their center, which pushes a view that Houston’s limited zoning and affordability have built a minority-friendly job oasis that should be emulated elsewhere.

Author and demographer Kotkin told me that economic growth in the South and parts of the West has long outpaced that in the Far West and Northeast. News coverage of racially tinged police shootings clouds economic progress made by minorities who are leaving high-expense cities such as New York for the South and Southwest. “Many of the places that worry about racial inequality are the places where it is the worst,” he says.

I don’t buy the argument that easy-zoning suburbs are the way to go, but I have to admit that parts of the report ring true. In suburban and mostly white Chesterfield County, Va., where I live, a recent report shows that Asian families were only $1,000 short of matching the Caucasian median annual household income of about $75,000. African Americans were not far behind at about $60,000. Hispanics made the lowest at about $46,000.

What’s driving the growth? Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington, says federal spending in Northern Virginia is fueling much of it. “You are going to see economic advantages expand as jobs move out to other parts of the state,” he says.

The spread is uneven. Hamilton Lombard, a research specialist at the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia, says he hasn’t seen much data suggesting big income gains for African Americans and Hispanics. Stewart Schwartz, head of the D.C.-based Coalition for Smarter Growth, faults Kotkin for ignoring problems of public transit and walkability. “Who wants to drive miles to a suburban office park?” he says.

However they play out, better job opportunities for minorities will affect traditional state politics. Challenged will be older ideas held mostly by whites about Virginia’s exceptionalism and pecking order. Diverse groups might recharge their sense of identity and push back against xenophobia.

Farnsworth says he’s already seeing a new form of estrangement. Older, rural and mostly white areas are becoming increasingly Republican as other, more urban areas enjoy the strong economic growth that’s attracting “more educated and more driven” diverse groups, he says.

New Grand Mart is a prime example of the business bustle. Scott Kim, a manager, told me that his company, which has stores in Alexandria, Falls Church and Langley Park, studied the Richmond market thoroughly. Foreign food outlets had been mostly mom-and-pop stores in strip malls despite growing pent-up demand. As his cash registers jingle, he says he is “amazed” at the diversity of the Richmond area.

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Dulles International Airport Challenges

A demand for change at Dulles Airport.

Washington Dulles International Airport, located in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties in Virginia, was once surrounded by farmland. An image of the Dulles Airport decorates the seal for the Town of Herndon. Yet Dulles airport is fighting an image problem. Virginia political and business leaders are trying to reverse passenger declines at Dulles Airport, as more passengers travel through Reagan National Airport.

#In 2005, 27 million passengers flew through Dulles; in 2014, the number was 21.6 million. In comparison, 17.8 million passengers flew through Reagan National Airport in 2005. By 2014, that number of Reagan passengers had become 20.8 million. Three times in 15 years, Congress has lifted the 1,250-mile perimeter and added new flight slots at National.

#Some travelers have said Dulles Airport is difficult to navigate through. It has also been getting a bad reputation for luggage issues. Dulles had 1,086 total claims, out of which 331 were approved or settled for a total of $67,952.16 between 2010 and 2014. A USA Today investigation found the TSA is taking a hit for damaged bags, paying out $3-million in claims for lost, broken or stolen items.

#TSA PAID OUT 7.6 claims per million passengers at Washington Dulles International, about two and a half times the number of losses paid at nearby Reagan National and nearly four times more than the airport ranked with fewest complaints among the 30 busiest Airports in America, Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

#In the meantime, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) is trying to increase revenue while more passengers are using Reagan National. Dulles is expensive for airlines. Most large airlines fly a “hub-and-spoke” network where they fly almost entirely to and from their hubs. Without a United hub, there are no flights to smaller eastern cities from Dulles, since United depends on connecting passengers to fill them.

#United CEO Jeff Smisek said United is reluctant to expand at Dulles because it is more expensive than other airports. Airports have to be self-sufficient and pay for their facilities and operations through revenue they earn inside the airport (like restaurants, concessions) and fees airlines pay. When an airport wants to build new facilities, it must take on debt that raises the costs for the airlines.

#In January of 2015 Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe unveiled new, large versions of the “Welcome to Virginia” signs at Dulles Airport. In April, a seminar was held at the Sterling AOL Campus, titled Dulles Matters. The event was sponsored by the Committee for Dulles. Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said although Dulles is a key regional asset, the public must be sure leaders are making the smartest choices when it comes to spending taxpayer money.

#A study commissioned by the MWAA showed Dulles generated more than $1.2 billion a year in tax revenue and nearly $10 billion in labor income. More than 19,000 people work at Dulles, but nearly 250,000 jobs are tied to the airport. MWAA operates National and Dulles. “We need to rally and put Dulles and this region onto a positive growth path,” said Keith Meurlin, president of the Washington Airports Task Force and former Washington Dulles International Airport manager.

#Phase 2 of Metro’s new Silver Line will include a station at Dulles, and construction may be complete by 2020. The MWAA may amend its ground transportation policy to allow Uber, Lyft and similar services access to airport property at National and Dulles. The Maryland Aviation Administration, which oversees BWI, studied practices at other airports to develop a “comprehensive review” of its ground transportation service, and plans to update regulations in coming months, officials said.

#Traditional cabs pay a $3-per-fare fee to operate at National, unless it’s a prearranged trip, and they must wait in line to be dispatched. Uber and Lyft drivers can pull up to the curb to collect passengers. “They are popular with a certain segment of the population,” said John Massoud, vice president of M&R Taxi Company, Inc., trading as Arlington Blue Top Cab, which has provided taxi service to Northern Virginia since 1984. A locally owned family business, M&R Taxi Company, Inc. has potential taxi drivers go through a detailed screening process including a drug test, training and an exam. “Only then we do allow someone to drive a Washington Flyer taxi,” said Massoud. Although taxi companies have few worries for the Metro Silver Line, they have expressed specific concerns regarding rider services such as Uber.

#DULLES AIRPORT has been reviewing three potential sites for hotel development including a 2.6-acre site used as employee parking at the east end of the terminal. The other two sites include: a 5.6-acre site behind a daily garage facing the main terminal, near the future Metro station; and a 13.7-acre lakefront site near the existing Dulles Airport Marriott hotel, which has a lease to operate at Dulles through 2027. On-airport hotels have been popular for travelers who have early flights.

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Testimony in Support with Recommendations for the Prince George’s County Regional Medical Center

We want to express our strong support for this proposal. We applaud Prince George’s County and its partners for locating a state-of-the-art new Regional Medical Center at the Largo Metro station. We agree that this new healthcare facility at this Metro location is a game-changing investment for the county. To ensure the full potential of this investment, we need to create pedestrian-oriented designs for buildings, streets, and public spaces.

Coalition For Smarter Growth Has a New Manager

The Coalition for Smarter Growth, an organization dedicated to promoting walkable and transit-oriented communities, has a new advocacy manager in its Montgomery County office.

Pete Tomao is taking over the position held by Kelly Blynn and said as the new advocacy manager he hopes to work on increasing transportation choices for the county.

“Whether that is through more bicycle lanes, more 8-car trains on Metro, expanded RideOn service, or a bus rapid transit system,” Tomao wrote in an email to MyMCMedia.

Tomao added there are a lot of “great plans and ideas circulating” in the county. Plans that, according to him, will be necessary to meet the population needs.

“By 2040, forecasts project that Montgomery County will have 70 [percent] more road congestion, 21 [percent] more residents, and 40 [percent] more jobs than today, so our need for a robust variety of transportation choices has never been greater. … from the bus rapid transit network to the Purple Line, to more Metro investment, to making it easier for people to bike or walk,” Tomao wrote.

Tomao is originally from Long Island, New York, and moved to the region to attend American University. He is also a former union and political organizer.

“I’m excited to be working for CSG and look forward to meeting many new friends and smart growth supporters in Montgomery,” Tomao wrote.

The new manager took the job during a busy time for transportation advocates. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced on June 24 the Purple Line– a proposed $2.44 billion light rail extending from Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George’s County- is scheduled to move forward. Tomao wrote he was glad the governor approved the project but “want to make sure that Montgomery and Prince George’s get the support and funding they need to successfully build the project.”

“We were disappointed by some of the announced service changes — decreased frequency and fewer train cars. That could have a negative effect on reliability and level of service, and will only be more expensive to fix in coming years. We still feel positive that the project is moving, but will be watching developments very closely in the coming months and will be prepared to help out where we can,” he wrote.

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As Part Of Multibillion-Dollar Package For Roads, Hogan Says ‘Yes’ To Purple Line

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced a major shift in state transportation spending to prioritize the maintenance and expansion of roads and bridges over investment in mass transit projects.

While unveiling plans to spend $2 billion on roads — including $845 million on entirely new projects — at an Annapolis news conference on Thursday, the governor finally revealed his highly-anticipated decisions for two light rail proposals.

Hogan gave conditional approval to the $2.4 billion Purple Line in the D.C. suburbs but axed the $2.9 billion Red Line in Baltimore. The latter project’s plan to build a $1 billion tunnel was labeled a “fatal flaw.”

Roads are “top priority”

“I’ve made it very clear that building, maintaining, and fixing Maryland’s roads and bridges is our top transportation priority and it is a top priority of our administration,” the Republican governor said.

“In January, our administration inherited a state infrastructure that for years had been severely underfunded. The previous administration slashed funding for local road improvements by up to 96 percent,” said Hogan, whose statewide road building plans mark a clean break from that recent past.

The governor called for $1.3 billion to be added to the $625 million already in the Maryland Department of Transportation’s construction budget for a slew of road and bridge jobs — from widening congested corridors such as Rt. 404 and studying congestion relief on I-270 to repaving 2,000 miles of state highways and “fixing every single structurally deficient bridge in the state.”

Purple Line survives — for now

Since taking office Hogan has called the 16-mile light rail line from Bethesda to New Carrollton too expensive, ordering the four contractor teams competing for the construction bid to shave hundreds of millions from the its growing price tag.

On Thursday, the governor announced his intention to reduce the state’s upfront commitment for construction by $500 million by 1) running trains less frequently (every 7.5 minutes instead of 6 minutes) and making other unspecified changes to the Purple Line’s scope, 2) asking the private sector firm that wins the long-term concession to front more cash, and 3) squeezing more money out of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

“Under our more efficient and more cost effective version of the Purple Line, the state’s share of the project will be $168 million, a fraction of the original proposal,” Hogan said. “By reducing this cost, we free up hundreds of millions of dollars for other important projects across Maryland.”

The Purple Line’s route and number of stations will not be changed, said Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn.

Will counties show Hogan the money?

Montgomery County executive Ike Leggett has said his county is tapped out, but released a statement following Hogan’s news conference indicating a willingness to work with state officials.

“I look forward to further discussions with the Governor over every aspect of the Purple Line — cost, design, construction schedule, and the role Montgomery County will be able to play in making the Purple Line a reality,” Leggett said.

“Prince George’s County has already committed an extraordinary amount for local governments to contribute toward a state project. I will thoroughly review this proposal along with my budget, finance, economic development, and transportation advisers to assess what this means for Prince George’s County,” said the county executive Rushern Baker in a post-news conference statement.

Transit advocates cautiously praised the project’s conditional approval but were concerned ongoing negotiations over price could further delay a project whose construction was scheduled to begin this year, buttressed by the promise of $900 million in federal aid.

“This is a big lift for Montgomery and Prince George’s County,” said Stewart Schwartz, the executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, a group that opposes highway projects in favor of public transit.

“It is our hope that it doesn’t cause protracted negotiations. It is our hope that the governor is willing to give a little and put more state dollars back into the project, but the key is to not lose the federal funding,” Schwartz said.

Sec. Rahn indicated the state will be ready to make a decision on which contractor team submitted the most effective design changes in the next four to five months, essentially ruling out construction until 2016.

I-270 set for congestion study

There may be no group happier about the idea of spending $2 billion on roads and bridges than AAA Mid-Atlantic, one of the most vocal critics of former Governor Martin O’Malley.

“Governor Hogan hit a grand slam,” said AAA’s Lon Anderson, who echoed Hogan’s criticism that the O’Malley administration siphoned money from the state transportation trust fund for wasteful purposes. “I look at it as a rebalancing. Each administration comes in and sets priorities. The O’Malley administration came in and made transit its focus.”

Anderson said the Maryland Department of Transportation intends to use $100 million to study congestion relief on I-270 similar to how Virginia plans to transform I-66: use existing or additional lane capacity to manage congestion through tolls, HOV restrictions, or boosting bus transit.

“They want to make this a showcase for how technology can help better manage traffic,” Anderson said. “They are going to ask contractors and seek ideas and bids about what they would do on a certain budget to make 270 work better.”

The $100 million will fund a test program called “Innovative Congestion Reduction Strategies.”

A mix of roads and rails

Transit advocates reacted negatively to Hogan’s frugal approach to the Purple and Red Lines on the same day he threw $2 billion at highways, but transportation policy experts said the governor faces a difficult balance in such a diverse state.

“The governor has made it clear he has a priority to fix the roads throughout the state,” said Paul Lewis, director of policy and finance at the Eno Center for Transportation, a D.C. research group.

The suggestion that any project — highway or transit — will reduce congestion is dubious, Lewis said.

“If you look at the projections over the next 25 years, the region is supposed to grow by a million people and that will lead to congestion. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments estimates there will be another 400,000 drivers on the road by 2040,” Lewis said.

“Congestion is going to increase regardless of whether the Purple Line is built. It is more of an economic tool that will help shape new patterns of development in the region. It is an accessibility project that helps diversify the transportation mix to provide options for people,” Lewis said.

In fact, the economic development benefits of the Purple Line were key selling points when local officials relentlessly lobbied Hogan in recent months.

“In a growing region you need to have a diversified transportation network. Most people do get around by the roads but that is not just single occupancy vehicles, It’s also transit buses and carpoolers. Transit is part of that mix,” said Lewis, who said the Eno Center evaluates all projects together rather than separating out highway investments from transit.

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