Roads are an ever-present aspect of Loudoun’s infrastructure, but there are other aspects that keep commerce moving, as outlined in a report presented by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee at the Nov. 7 Economic Development Commission (EDC) meeting.
"It’s more than traffic in a nutshell," said Randy Minchew, EDC member, before introducing the committee members who gave the report, "Infrastructure, Where Are We Today?"
Committee member John Harris described Loudoun’s transportation infrastructure, including its existing roadways and airways and a potential rail line. "Most of our transportation infrastructure is fairly new," he said, adding that a majority of the roadways in the county, particularly in eastern Loudoun, were built in the past 25 years. "There are still major projects occurring, and the state is involved in those projects."
Harris mentioned the Route 28 and Loudoun County Parkway projects, two roadways planned for expansion through public-private partnership, adding that "there are no significant funds for new projects."
AIR TRANSPORTATION in Loudoun is provided through the Washington Dulles International Airport and the Leesburg Airport that serves as a reliever airport for the region and works in partnership with the Dulles Airport.
The Dulles Airport impacts the region’s economy by generating $3.7 billion in business revenue related to the airport, $6 million in taxes for Loudoun and Fairfax counties, and 18,000 direct jobs and another 12,000 related jobs, along with transporting more than 17 million passengers, Harris said in his report.
As for the county’s rail infrastructure, federal, state and local funding will be required to extend the metro rail line from East Falls Church to the planned Route 772 rail stop in Loudoun, a project estimated to cost $300 billion.
"We’re ahead of the region, but if we don’t plan for the future, it’s not going to get any better," Harris said. "We need to focus on the next steps. Thought should be given to the regional roads removed from the Comprehensive Planroup from El Salvador and Peru.’re going to look at what’s planned for the future."
These new companies will need land zoned for development in order to locate in the county, as well as existing companies who want to expand their facilities, said Deborah Rochind, committee member, in her report on land and zoning. "Loudoun County doesn’t have an adequate inventory of approved, zoned, developable land to support economic development in the next five years," Rochind said. "It’s not enough to have one type of land — large lots that owners won’t split up. … The county just doesn’t need AOLs, MCIs … we need small businesses too."
"Right now, we do have some parcels available," said Robyn Bailey, marketing manager for the Department of Economic Development. "We’ll see that absorbed first. We just don’t have as much inventory. … What’s next?"
Rochind said the county’s revised zoning ordinance, adopted earlier this year, was prepared too quickly, resulting in "unintended consequences." "The zoning process is costly and a hassle," she said, adding that developers wanting to increase the zoning densities of their properties now have to provide more costly proffers than they did before the revision.
ANOTHER ASPECT of the county’s infrastructure is sewer and water services, provided by the Loudoun County Sanitation Authority in eastern Loudoun; by the Town of Leesburg and western Loudoun towns that manage their own systems; and through the individual well and septic systems located, for the most part, in western Loudoun, said committee chairman Joe Paciulli in his report.
"Economic development in rural areas is reliant on ground water and individual septic systems," Paciulli said. "Public sewer and water can’t be extended to the region by county policy."
Northern Virginia Power and the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC) provide power services to Loudoun residents, distributing it through substations located within the county. A majority of the county's infrastructure was built in the 1980s when power companies still could get a return on their investments, said Brian Cullen, committee member. Some parts of old Sterling need repairs and Purcellville may face a power deficit in 10 years, he said.
Communication systems are another piece of the county’s infrastructure. The Route 28 tax district in the Dulles District has an extensive fiber optic system to serve the communication providers in the area, including AOL and MCI that attracted additional providers to the area, Cullen said. "I suggest we plan corridors to leverage fiber banks," he said.
The county’s public facilities, including fire, rescue and sheriff services, the Loudoun Hospital Center, the public and private schools and the various housing developments are also part of the county’s infrastructure.
"Housing is infrastructure provided by developers," Minchew said. "Demand is not created by market supply. … In this county, we have high demand."
Finally, there is the county’s soft infrastructure, something "difficult to quantify," said Jim Bennett, committee member. "It’s one of those things if you got it, you don’t pay attention to [it]."
Soft infrastructure includes facilities such as conference centers, motels and hotels, and quality of life places. These places range from shopping malls, restaurants and drinking establishments to parks and entertainment, all "critical for economic development purposes," Bennett said about the various places that can attract workers, families and singles to an area. "Soft infrastructure is overlooked, but it’s critical to complete the picture."