The county’s six-year plan for capital projects includes a few new projects, like more Rt. 7 widening and new funding for parks and trails, and a few projects getting pushed back, like Rt. 50 widening and a trail from Franklin Park to Purcellville.
Supervisors got their first look at County Administrator Tim Hemstreet’s proposal for the Capital Improvement Program at the Feb. 11 meeting of the Board of Supervisors finance committee. The program, which includes large investments like building new schools, roads and public facilities, looks six years into the future, with some projects designated beyond that. Those projects are funded in large part through debt financing by issuing bonds to be paid off over time, with additional funding from regional, state and federal assistance, proffers, other fees, and in the form of immediate payments from local tax revenues.
This will be the first capital improvement program for the new Board of Supervisors, with new members rushing to catch up on billions of dollars in planned projects.
The six-year program plans for $2.1 billion in spending for county government projects, the majority of which will once again be for transportation projects. The program proposes $1.2 billion in transportation projects alone.
Meanwhile, the schools side of the capital budget totals $805.4 million over six years.
A number of new projects were added to the county’s plans.
One would extend water lines to homes in Broad Runs Farms, where some water lines have already been planned using federal funds to connect to properties affected by groundwater pollution stemming from the Hidden Lane landfill, an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site. The county would connect 311 more parcels, in addition to the 142 proposed by the EPA.
Plans for a linear parks and trails system in the county, known as Emerald Ribbons, have also been added to the program. The program would receive funding in Fiscal Year 2022, which begins July 2021.
And another project to widen eastbound Rt. 7 from Loudoun County Parkway to Rt. 28 has been added, with construction likely sometime after 2026.
The county also has plans to build a backup Emergency Communications Center, expand the Adult Detention Center, and build a new public library in Purcellville.
Other projects have been delayed, some indefinitely—such as a planned trail between Franklin Park and Purcellville, while the county studies a new path for the trail; and expanding the Juvenile Detention Center. And, for the second time, plans for a STEM library have been delayed indefinitely.
A project to widen Rt. 50 between Tall Cedars Parkway and Loudoun County Parkway was pushed back two years to begin design work in 2027.
Director of Management and Budget Erin McLellan said increasing construction costs have had an impact.
“Many of the projects were re-estimated as we’ve continued to have difficulty with increasing project budgets and costs, so we did try as much as possible to keep things in position,” McLellan said.
Finance committee Chairman Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) cautioned other supervisors that moving projects around in the six-year schedule can be complicated; with the county issuing close to its $225 million annual limit on new debt each year, escalating construction costs, and projects planned years in advance, there is often little wiggle room for rearranging those plans. He pointed out most projects start at the back of the line—six years or more in advance.
“The board can always decide as it gets into its funding year that we don’t actually want to do it, but for most of these projects now that have been through a lot of scrutiny for a lot of time, we’ve kind of been waiting our turn,” Letourneau said.
However, some supervisors noted, the budget could get a little boost this year from the General Assembly. House Bill 729, which would restore an estimated $70 million in funding to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, is working its way through the General Assembly this year. The authority, which helps fund transportation projects in Loudoun and across the region, lost more than $100 million in funding in 2018 when that money was redirected to Metro.
Supervisors will bring their first suggested changes to the capital improvement program to a finance committee meeting Feb. 20; the program is adopted alongside the county’s annual operating budget by the full Board of Supervisors in early April.