Fairfax County officials examine selling air rights to pay for Silver Line

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Fairfax County officials are considering a potential solution for reducing tolls on the Dulles Toll Road: selling the right to build apartments, offices or retail on top of future Silver Line stations.

Tolls on the Toll Road are set to climb in the coming years as officials use the revenue to pay for 75 percent of the second phase of the Silver Line, which will extend from Reston to Loudoun County.

Project and county leaders are hoping that selling the air rights above the Silver Line's stations and the toll road could be a way to offset the costs to drivers.

"My big concern for that corridor is that the tolls are going to kill economic activity in that corridor, and we need to do everything we can to hold the tolls down," said Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity, R-Springfield. "This is one idea that may provide some relief to the tolls."

Herrity

led a push this past month to get a formal presentation on air rights from county staff. He said he hopes that will lead to paying for a 60-day study of the idea.

Selling air rights is an idea project officials have talked about in the past, but no formal plans have been made, officials said.

"We think it's a good idea," said Tom Davis, a board member of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is building the Silver Line. "We've looked at it. We've certainly examined it. Rather than do an exhaustive study, what we've done is preserve that option as we move forward."

The airports authority will make sure its contractor designs the second part of the Silver Line so that selling the air rights above stations is possible, Davis said. The contractor is set to be selected in May.

Officials said the idea is more complicated than it may seem because it's not clear whose zoning rules would need to be followed for any air rights development and whether tollpayers and taxpayers could be guaranteed to benefit from the development, said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova, a Democrat.

"That's something Fairfax County is concerned about, that if something were to happen, that we would have a role in the approval process -- that indeed the taxpayers would benefit and not just the airports," Bulova said.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner