Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Virginia’s governor said this week new real estate development would follow the transportation plan he is trying to get approved for Northern Virginia.

The plan includes building a 23-mile passenger rail line from Tysons Corner to Washington Dulles International Airport and improvements to roadways through the area.

“We’re trying to better match transportation and land-use planning,” Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said during a meeting with business leaders Tuesday in McLean.

Northern Virginia’s real estate development is spreading out in a patchwork of office parks and other projects but lacks a clear plan, he said.

Transportation planning, particularly the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, would focus the development between Tysons Corner and Washington Dulles International Airport, Mr. Kaine said.

“It will create more opportunities for development,” he said.

Although few lawmakers doubt the need for a comprehensive transportation plan, Northern Virginia’s real estate developers are waiting anxiously as state transportation department officials juggle the options. Billions of dollars in real estate projects depend on their decisions in the next few weeks to months.

Mr. Kaine said he was adding a few modifications to the state budget, which includes a transportation plan for roadways, while it is before the Virginia General Assembly. The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project would be funded separately by toll-road revenue.

“The rail project is the kickoff for big redevelopment,” said Donna Shafer, vice president of West Group, a McLean real estate development company.

Her company owns 142 acres in Tysons Corner that it plans to turn into “a real city,” which she defined to mean parks, residential areas and retail outlets instead of just large office buildings.

Meanwhile, Fairfax County officials are awaiting results of a cost-benefit analysis on whether to submerge four miles of the $4 billion Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project in an 80-foot deep tunnel under Tysons Corner to eliminate concerns about noise from an elevated rail line.

State and local estimates put the additional cost at $200 million to $800 million. The analysis is scheduled to be completed by the end of next month.

It could influence whether the federal government carries through on its tentative pledge of $900 million for the rail project.

“We don’t want to jeopardize our federal funding,” said Patty Nicoson, president of the Dulles Corridor Rail Association, an advocacy group for the Metrorail extension.

In other news …

The prospects for finding affordable housing in Maryland are slim for the foreseeable future, the Maryland Association of Realtors said this week.

The state’s strong job outlook is great for the local economy but puts new homes in short supply, meaning prices will continue to climb amid strong demand, the association said.

Adding to the price of home ownership are rising energy costs for utility bills and a tendency of state legislators to increase property taxes to solve their budget problems, the association of realtors said.

The trend toward higher home prices in Maryland is different from much of the United States, where prices have evened out or even fallen as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates. The effective mortgage rate has climbed from 6.21 percent in June 2005 to 7.05 percent in April 2006.

• Property Lines runs on Thursdays. Call Tom Ramstack at 202/636-3156 or e-mail

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