Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It Was a Busy Tuesday for Traffic/Transit

The day started badly for Loudoun County commuters today, but got better through the morning with news of $900 million commited to the Dulles Rail project.

At least one person had to be taken by helicopter to a hospital this morning after a single-car accident on the Dulles Greenway, just west of the exit for Ryan Road according to the Virginia State Police. The accident was reported about 5:35 a.m. according to state police spokeswoman Corrine Geller.

All lanes were reopened to traffic by 7:30 a.m. but the accident snarled traffic in the area and on the roadway heading east in the morning rush hour. As a result Route 28, as well as Waxpool Road and Farmwell Road were at an almost complete stand still.

The Washington Post's Dr. Gridlock reports the driver has been identified by Virginia State Police as Daniel F. Wiener, 63. His home address was not given. He was the sole occupant of the car and was flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where his injuries were not considered life-threatening.

And now the good news...

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today committed $900 million in U.S. Department of Transportation funds through 2016 to the $3.1 billion Wiehle Avenue Extension of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project. Participating in the full funding grant agreement ceremony at transportation headquarters were Secretary LaHood, Governor Tim Kaine, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Chairman H.R. Crawford, members of the Virginia congressional delegation and other MWAA officials.

According to a WTOP Radio story, today's signing comes a little more than a year after cost concerns nearly killed the project. Virginia officials scrambled to bring the project in compliance and in January, then-U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters gave final federal approval. Federal funding was awarded after a mandatory 60-day congressional review.

Governor Kaine released a statement noting that one of his "top transportation priorities has been to see Dulles Rail become a reality. The signing of the $900 million Full Funding Grant Agreement for Phase 1 of the project is an accomplishment that has taken more than 10 years to achieve and I am proud to have this honor."

"I want to extend my sincere appreciation to all those involved in making this project a reality – Virginia's Congressional Delegation, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Dulles Transit Partners, and the transportation staff of the Commonwealth – all of whom have demonstrated commitment and support to this long overdue transportation choice in the Dulles Corridor," the Governor added.

Workers already have been moving utilities along Routes 7 and 123 in preparation for the line, according to the Washington Times. Construction on the project is expected to begin this month.

The Times adds that the "Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority approved the Dulles rail extension in 2002, but the project dates back to 1962 - the same year operations began at Dulles Airport and when a D.C. Transit study proposed a monorail in the nearby corridor that would end in Georgetown. After years of studies, debates and attempts to finalize funding, the project's initial milestone now appears imminent."

The Washington Post of course also had coverage, noting that "those who live, work or drive near the corridor also must focus on another reality: six years of debilitating construction that will further slow Northern Virginia's busiest thoroughfares. Although some light construction began months ago, the coming weeks and months will bring an entirely new level of din, dust and general havoc to McLean, Vienna, Tysons Corner and beyond."

When complete, this project will consist of five new stations, improvements to an existing rail yard, 64 new rail cars, and 2,300 parking spaces at the Wiehle Ave. station. The Metrorail project would expand capacity to and from Reston and the Tysons Corner regional activity centers, and provide a direct rail link for commuters from northwest Fairfax and Loudoun Counties to employment opportunities in Tysons Corner, the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, and downtown Washington.

The extension is projected to serve 85,700 daily riders by 2030, including an estimated 10,000 new daily transit riders.

According to the Washington Examiner, Dulles Rail’s first 11.6-mile phase is expected to cost $2.6 billion. That money comes from:
  • Fairfax County special commercial tax district - $400 million (capped)
  • Federal Transit Administration grants - $900 million (capped)
  • Dulles Toll Road proceeds - about $1.3 billion (uncapped)

And the Washington Business Journal also reported on today's good news.

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