Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More on Dulles Rail

A report prepared for Federal Transit Administration says that Virginia must adjust the timetable and expenses for the first phase of the project.

According to today's Washington Post, the Commonwealth must cut at least $250 million off the price tag of the first leg of Metrorail service to Dulles International Airport to meet the Federal Transit Administration's cost-efficiency guidelines and qualify for crucial U.S. funding. The Post says that federal officials warned in a report released yesterday that the first phase of Dulles rail service -- from East Falls Church through Tysons Corner to Reston -- is late and over budget, saying it would now cost $2.83 billion and take about 15 months longer to complete than previously estimated.

The 23-mile rail line's first phase will extend to Wiehle Avenue in Reston and is expected to be completed by 2012. The second phase, which was not addressed in yesterday's report, would extend beyond the airport, with two stops in Loudoun County. The full project will cost more than $5 billion and is scheduled to be done by 2015.

The Washington Examiner says that Monday's report, prepared by Hill International Inc., is one of two independent reviews that will play heavily into whether the FTA agrees to grant $900 million to the project. The document comes on the heels of a highly critical audit from the U.S. Department of Transportation?s inspector general, who attacked Dulles Rail's repeated timeline slippage and cost escalation.

"We appreciate the complexities of the cost-effective measurements that are required by federal law," the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is managing the project, said in a statement. "We fully intend to achieve the cost adjustments to make the project eligible for FTA funding."

The Times Community newspaper meanwhile reports that "if the revised figures in any way affect potential ridership or benefits of use to riders, the FTA warned that the project's standing may suffer as a result." The paper also quotes FTA spokesman Wes Irvin. "Anything you take out like that may force us to re-evaluate user benefits." Savings found by reducing the number of rail cars serving the new line, for example, would affect ridership, and therefore would degrade the cost-effectiveness rating.

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