Fairfax County is exploring how selling air rights could help reduce tolls on the Dulles Toll Road that are expected to shoot up with Phase II of the Silver Line construction.
Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) asked staff last week to look into the cost of a study determining how much money the county could charge developers for the right to build over the Toll Road and new Silver Line Metro stations.
Air rights over roads and rail have been sold numerous times in New York City. For example, the 58-story Metlife building in New York is built in air rights above Grand Central Terminal. The city is also hoping to make as much as $750 million for mass transit improvements through air rights sales around Grand Central, according to Bloomberg.
“There’s broad agreement and consensus that this is worth looking at but nobody’s actually looking at it,” Herrity said. “I am concerned about the impact of the tolls on the economic health of the corridor.”
Under the current funding model, toll road users would foot about 75 percent of the bill for the $3 billion extension from Reston to Dulles International Airport.
“Air rights” is a legal term used to describe the area above or below the plane of a transportation facility. The right to use the space can be leased to public or private parties.
Herrity says the revenue can go right towards toll alleviation. Air rights would only be sold for the 23-mile second phase of the Silver Line.
With officials shooting to have a construction contract for Phase II by May 2013, Herrity said the county needed to act as fast as possible before stations are designed.
“It’s not something that going to happen today, but if we don’t do something today, we preclude the opportunity of seeing that revenue source in the future,” he said. “I don’t want to run out of time on this one.”
Herrity said he had received estimates on studies for two stations that would total about $50,000 and take 60 days.
Staff will come back to the Board with a short presentation and cost estimates for a feasibility study to be discussed at a coming Transportation Committee meeting. No exact date has been set.
“I just want to see the ball start moving,” Herrity said.