Monday, June 9, 2008

Dulles Rail Suffers Yet Another Setback

According to a Washington Post article on Saturday, a proposed extension of Metrorail to Dulles International Airport, already on precarious footing, was dealt another setback when the Virginia Supreme Court allowed a lawsuit to go forward challenging plans to use Dulles Toll Road receipts to fund construction.

The decision casts doubt on one of the most crucial sources of money to help pay for the 23-mile Dulles rail line. Without that money, the Federal Transit Administration, which has been scrutinizing the project's financing, might pull its approval of the extension. Virginia is counting on the FTA to pay $900 million of the $5.2 billion cost.

Meanwhile, the Washington Examiner story reports that justices reversed a March 2007 Richmond Circuit Court judge's ruling, rejecting the state's claim that it couldn't be sued under "sovereign immunity" and sending the lawsuit back to the lower court. If successful, the legal challenge would bar Virginia from turning the toll road over to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which plans to use the revenue to fund the Dulles Metrorail project.

The suit was brought by Richmond lawyer Patrick McSweeney on behalf of two toll road users. McSweeney was instrumental in the Supreme Court's February decision that gutted the legislature's 2007 transportation funding package, declaring that unelected regional bodies like the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) couldn't collect taxes.

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