Fairfax County transportation officials have asked the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to move on federal loans that could help pay for $1.9 billion of the total cost of the Silver Line.
FCDOT representatives presented the Board with a series of recommendations Tuesday afternoon in order to file an application for a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan from the federal government.
Joe LaHait, the county’s debt coordinator, said if the funding partners secured such a loan, approximately $1.3 billion would be allocated to the Dulles Toll Road. Toll Road users are currently on the hook for 75 percent of the $5.9 billion rail project and toll prices are expected to increase dramatically in the coming years.
But the quick turnaround — officials would have to finish the application in a week's time — is giving some supervisors pause.
TIFIA would allocate $475 million to Fairfax County’s total $1.06 billion obligation to both phases I and II. The loan program features lower interest rates and a significantly lower total cost over the life of the loan than if the county were get an open market loan, LaHait said. The county would begin to pay off the loan in 2023, five years after the projected 2018 completion date for Phase II to Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County.
In order to achieve the AA rating expected by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the best interest rate, FCDOT director Tom Biesiadny asked the board to pledge money from the county’s Phase II Tax District and commercial and industrial real estate (C&I) tax revenues.
The Silver Line's funding partners - Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and the Dulles Toll Road - would also have to give the feds $100,000 each as a downpayment for the TIFIA review process.
And the DOT is on a tight schedule – the board would have to approve the loan application at its May 14 meeting.
“Loudoun and the Airports Authority have already taken their action, so we wanted to put you in a position to be able to move the project forward,” Biesiadny told supervisors.
Supervisor Michael Frey (R-Sully) took issue with the quick turnaround.
“We’re borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars,” Frey said. “We’re doing this in a week.”
County staff said the USDOT was slow in getting back to them with the precise details of the loan, which forced a tight timeline.
But regardless of the timing, County Debt Manager Len Wales said the county wouldn’t get similar interest rates on the open market and should seize the chance.
“TIFIA really represents an opportunity for us,” Wales said. “I think we would all prefer to have a few more months to look at this, but even so, I don’t think the answer would change.”
Do you think the county should act on the TIFIA loan? Tell us in the comments.
Keep up with all Silver Line news on our Silver Line topic page.