Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dulles Rail Back on Again

According to Reuters, the U.S. government reversed course on Wednesday and said it would support a $5 billion plan to extend a regional commuter rail line to Dulles airport.

The Federal Transit Administration said it would provide $158.7 million to complete financial and construction planning for the 23-mile rail link to the Washington Metrorail system. But the Bush administration said that commitment is no guarantee of future support.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority must ensure it has sufficient funds to cover risks and prove the project will be completed on time and within budget, according to James Simpson, FTA administrator. Trains throughout the Washington Metro system must also be in working order, he added.

Federal, state and local officials have been wrangling over the Dulles rail project for years. Supporters argue it would alleviate traffic congestion in northern Virginia, where the airport is located, and provide convenient, affordable transportation to the nation's capital from the international airport.

Meanwhile, according to Virginia Business, Gov. Timothy Kaine says that fully funding the Metro system will be the biggest hurdle for landing federal money for the Dulles rail project.

Kaine said that the General Assembly would need to replace the $50 million
that would have been raised by regional taxes imposed by the Northern Virginia
Transportation Authority. The authority’s taxing powers were ruled unconstitutional by the Virginia Supreme Court. The governor is expected to call for legislators to hold a special session on transportation in late June.

The $50 million would have gone toward Metro’s operations budget, not capital
needs. Kaine said Virginia would “need to pull together other partners on the bigger issue of Metro funding.

Washington Post staff writer Amy Gardner was online this afternoon answering questions about the announcement of federal approval to extend Metrorail to Dulles Airport, if it clears the way for federal funding of the extension, and what's next for the project. Read the transcript here.

Other media articles:
Richmond Times-Dispatch

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