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2217 Wakerobin Lane Reston, VA 20191 703-476-5376
Chairman Sharon Bulova Fairfax County Board of Supervisors 12000 Government Center Parkway Suite 530 Fairfax, VA 22035
Dear Chairman Bulova, Thank you for your response to the Reston Citizens Association's (RCA's) analysis and recommendations of Wilbur Smith Associates' (WSA's) traffic and revenue (T&R) forecasts. 1 especially appreciate that the County Auditor corroborated the accuracy of elements of our assessment of WSA1s 2009 study. I believe you will find the balance of the assessment equally accurate and balanced. 1 am, however, concerned that the major risks we identified of moving forward with such erroneous forecasts has not led you to reconsider your intention to push for early approval of Phase 2 construction. I believe, however, that there may be a way to bridge the gap. I have been advised by experts in the field that a critique of the forthcoming WSA T&R forecast could be completed in as little as six weeks that would indicate whether we should have confidence in WSA's longer term baseline forecast. In short, it could be available as soon as early April if acted on promptly. We all could use that critique either as a "due diligence" basis for going ahead with Phase 2 of the Silver Line or as the basis for requiring a second, .Full, independent T&R forecast study. My specific proposal is as follows: Obtain an independent second opinion on the validity of the WSA forecast. The Fairfax County Board Auditor contract with an independent T&R consultant to critique the latest WSA forecast. Specifically, the consultant would provide a written report that reviews the WSA paper, public forecasts of Dulles Corridor area growth, and publicly available information about Metrorail costs, identify the strengths and weaknesses of its data sources and methodology. Most importantly, the consultant should assess whether it is likely that the WSA baseline revenue forecast overestimates is likely to realize the risks RCA identified in its study of WSA forecasts. o This could be carried out by any of the other major T&R forecasting companies or by a consultant specializing in critiquing forecasts. Credibility could be an issue in selecting another T&R forecasting outfit-just as it has become an issue in Detroit where the owner of the existing international bridge has hired consulting firms to document the lack of wisdom in building a competing bridge. Moreover, the RCA report suggests that all of the T&R
forecasters have been guilty of overestimating toll revenues, and the reliability of their critique could be as questionable as the original study = An individual expert consultant with no axe t o grind or specific advantage t o gain from such work (beyond the contract for the critique) might be a better fit. For example, Robert Bain, an internationally recognized toll road forecasting expert whose research I used in the RCA study, could be appropriate. (For more info on Bain, see his website at http://www.robbain.com/index.htm.) o As guidelines, the critique should focus on: The period a decade or more from now. In this period, debt servicing requirements and forecast uncertainty will both grow substantially. Major deviations from revenue forecasts are likely be encountered for well-established toll roads, such as the Dulles Toll Road. The likelihood of overestimates of a third to a half or more. Such overestimates would mean tolls would need to increase by about half or double or more those forecast by WSA t o meet debt servicing requirements resulting from traffic diversion from the Dulles Toll Road. That is, forecast $10 tolls would likely become $15, $20, or more in reality. Assure the transparency of the County effort. Communications between the County and the consultant as well as those within the County, including Board communications, concerning this critique and i t s process should be immediately and fully available to the public via the County website. Both the consultant and the County should be responsible for assuring this transparency goal is achieved. To help assure public knowledge of the work, you may want to include a citizens group representative among those monitoring the consultant's work. Commit to a second full study if a substantial overestimate is indicated in the consultant's critique. If the consultant's report suggests there is a significant risk of a substantial overestimate of revenues in future years as suggested above, the County will accept RCA's recommendation t o delay its approval of Phase 2 until a second, full, independent T&R forecast is completed and differences between the two forecasts resolved. o If the results of the critique indicate that the WSA forecast is fairly accurate in its revenue forecasts, then the County would appear t o have completed reasonable due diligence. If the toll forecast is not so excessive as t o trigger the risks RCA has raised, then the Board could feel confident that it has addressed the revenue forecasting issue in proceeding t o vote whether t o approve Phase 2 of the Silver Line notwithstanding other issues in the financing plan.
I believe that such an open due diligence process will assuage the concerns of Restonians and others
who live along the Dulles Corridor that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is now rushing t o a predetermined judgment. With this timely, professional critique available, they will know that the Board is well informed about this key issue in the Metrorail project before makes a decision. I hope that you find it appropriate and achievable in meeting your priorities as well as the needs of your constituents. Thank you for your consideration of this proposal.
emb be;, ~ d a r d Directors of Reston Citizens Association
Distribution: Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Fairfax County Board Auditor Loudoun County Board of Supervisors MWAA Board of Directors Jack Potter, MWAA Chief Executive Officer Andy Rountree, MWAA Chief Financial Officer Gov. Robert McDonnell, Commonwealth of Virginia Sean Connaughton, Virginia Secretary of Transportation U Senator Mark Warner, Virginia S U Senator Jim Webb, Virginia S US Representative Frank Wolf US RepresentativeJim Moran U Representative Gerry Connolly S Senator Janet Howell, Virginia Senate Del. Ken Plum, Virginia House of Delegates Members, Virginia House Transportation Committee