Metro Spending Balloons in Arlington County’s Capital Budget

Comments At Public Hearing on Arlington County’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) on June 27, 2018.

The big winner in the 2019-28 CIP is Metro, which has been awarded $73 million on top of an already budgeted $220 million for a whopping total of $293 million over ten years (p. E-1).

The additional $73 million represents Arlington’s share of a tri-state funding agreement to donate $500 million to Metro.

To pay for this subsidy, a whole host of programs have been defunded or reduced including:

  • Street Paving
  • Parks Acquisition
  • ART Bus Purchases and Facilities
  • Residential Street Improvements
  • Data Center upgrade
  • Courthouse complex renovation
  • Stormwater compliance and infrastructure

If this isn’t robbing Peter to pay Paul, I don’t know what is. Certainly defunding ART to pay for regional transit service makes no sense at all.

Consider also that Arlington School Board’s adopted 2019-28 CIP pegs a new 800 seat high school at the Career Center at $185 million (p.12).

Yet in 2017 Loudoun County—the wealthiest in the nation–constructed a 1,900 seat high school for half the price at under $92 million.

The CIP also includes a new Lubber Run Community Center with a whopping $47.9 million price tag. By comparison, the town of Vienna recently completed renovating its community center for just $6.5 million.

I don’t oppose funding Metro, schools and community centers. I just don’t like the outsized price tag. County Board should lobby for legislation that will hold WMATA accountable for its performance and demand that the School Board explain why it costs so much more to build schools in Arlington than everywhere else.

In the meantime voters should reject the Metro and School bonds. But I’m not holding my breathe. The County never saw a boondoggle it didn’t like, and the voters never saw a bond issue they didn’t approve.