Letter: Unnecessary, Unaffordable

Letter: Unnecessary, Unaffordable

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

When a Metro site was envisioned 40 years ago for the Potomac Yard, there were no Metros stations in Alexandria. Now we have a passel. And near each today, there are vacancies aplenty. These vacancies exist despite lower property tax rates than planned for the Potomac Yard Metro.

But what else is wrong with this possible new gargantuan building project called Potomac Yard Metro? In two parts, here’s why. First, it’s fundamentally wrong:

  1. It’s a big bet based on a faint hope. Our elected officials are betting if they build a Metro, then businesses will come to Potomac Yard. Betting is not what our elected officials should be doing with our money.

  2. It’s a bad bet. To entice these businesses to locate near this new Metro, our misguided leaders are going to give them higher property taxes. This is not an enticement; it’s a disincentive.

  3. It’s a bad use of funds. We sent these elected officials to high office to tend to city business: streets, schools and safety; not to make bad bets.

  4. It’s not going to meaningfully reduce street congestion. The Highway One corridor is a cut-through street for people residing in Fairfax County. More people in Fairfax County; more cars on Highway One.

  5. It’s enormous cost won’t be paid by the businesses that may be lured to locate near it. It is inconceivable this Metro will be largely paid by a small group of businesses that may locate near this Metro, especially considering there are none there now and may never be in meaningful numbers.

  6. It’s existence will not make Alexandria magically more appealing for businesses. Contrary to what our Chamber of Commerce would have you believe, a single additional metro does not make a city business-friendly.

Second, its costs far exceed its benefit:

  1. It will increase your taxes. The debt required to build the Potomac Yard Metro will need to be serviced long before there are enough businesses in the Potomac Yard to begin help paying for it.

  2. It will substantially increase Alexandria’s debt. Our debt is now roughly $600 million. This debt will approach $1 billion, possibly double to $1.2 billion, and then some, if this new Metro is built.

  3. It will perforce increase, if not double our city debt payments from today’s roughly $66 million per year potentially to $130 million more or less, which translates into more strains to properly fund schools, streets and safety.

  4. It will be managed by officials who have never delivered any sizable project in Alexandria on time and on budget. If funded, it will be the single most expensive public works project ever undertaken by Alexandria.

  5. It has odious environmental consequences requiring the city to trade 13 acres and cash to get 1 acre and a building exemption from the Federal government.

  6. It undermines the newly commissioned, dedicated bus service on Highway One connecting those who live and work in Potomac Yard with existing Metros.

  7. It will make Alexandria denser faster and its developers richer quicker, none of which are Alexandria businesses.

  8. It is being brought to you by fiscally irresponsible elected officials who, for eight years, have annually spent more money than they had revenues. They can’t even run the city-owned bike rental business profitably.

My point: Apart from adding more commuting time for Metro users, we’re going to lose the bet made with our credit to build a new Metro. It may lure some businesses to Potomac Yard prepared to pay higher taxes, but more likely it will not lure enough to repay the Metro’s ultimate cost.

Instead, if this Metro is built, it will cost more than forecast; take longer to build than promised; your taxes will go up and our already dense city will become evermore dense-packed requiring a bigger government to provide more services to lots more people. This Metro may be nice, but it’s as unaffordable and as unnecessary as paving Alexandria’s streets with gold.

Jimm Roberts