Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Dulles Rail Saga Continues

The Washington Post reports today that State and airport officials have decided against asking the federal government for permission to spend money on the Metrorail extension to Dulles International Airport while awaiting U.S. approval of the project. Last week, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, looking to cover escalating construction costs, asked the Federal Transit Administration for clearance to spend certain state and local money on the $2.7 billion project.

The Post added that Virginia Transportation Secretary Pierce R. Homer said yesterday that the Airports Authority had rescinded the request because the state's energy was better spent working to win approval of a $900 million federal grant for the rail line. The grant is contingent on the state, the Airports Authority and Dulles Transit Partners, the private construction consortium selected to build the line, meeting cost-effectiveness guidelines.

The Times Community also has more on the story, including a quote from FTA administrator Jim Simpson, who said the report bolsters the agency's decision to give the project additional - and unprecedented - levels of scrutiny. "This raises important concerns regarding the Dulles Metrorail project and reinforces our decision to call for an additional, independent review of the project's costs and risks," Simpson said.

And the Connection has an interesting angle, quoting a Reston real estate agent, once a proponent of the project, who now says he can't back the proposal. "The things that makes me different from most people that are upset is that I was a big rail supporter but I cannot support this," said Reston resident and real estate agent Rob Whitfield. He and his neighbors will be paying for the costs of the rail project through increased fees along the Dulles Toll Road but they won’t see most of the benefits, he said. The story said that Tysons Corner metro stations will be used mostly by people from Arlington, Maryland, D.C. and Tysons, not by people in western Fairfax and Loudoun who use the toll road. "If you are a resident of Tysons you won’t be paying a nickel for this rail. If you are a resident of D.C., Arlington or Maryland, you won’t be paying for this project," said Whitfield.

Meanwhile, the Washington Examiner reported today that legislation that would authorize $1.5 billion in federal funding for Metro moved closer to becoming law yesterday by winning approval from the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee. A similar House measure cleared a committee in that chamber earlier this year. The money would fund construction and maintenance for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Metro would receive the $1.5 billion over 10 years.

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