Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Underground Metro Station Approved for Dulles International Airport

According to the Washington Examiner, after a year of debate over cost and convenience, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority voted 9-4 today to build an underground Metro station at Washington Dulles International Airport, ignoring protests from Fairfax and Loudoun county officials who will shoulder part of the project's cost.

"Fairfax, Loudoun and Virginia Department of Transportation officials had asked the airports authority to build an above-ground train station at the airport that would have cost about $300 million less than the underground station.

"But authority officials said the underground station, which could be located 600 feet closer to the airport, was worth the additional cost. ... In addition to costing more, the underground station puts Dulles Rail project another six months behind schedule. Construction is now expected to be complete by June 2017."

In a statement released earlier today, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York expressed dismay with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Board approval of an underground alignment for the future Metro stop at Dulles International Airport. The alternative chosen maintains the Phase 2 rail project cost overrun of $1 billion, according to documents provided by MWAA. While the MWAA Board had the opportunity to save $300 million by selecting an aerial station, the MWAA Board ignored the Loudoun and Fairfax Boards of Supervisors, as well as the Virginia Secretary of Transportation, and chose an underground station.

"The MWAA Board has claimed this as a cost-savings victory. I see this project as still being $1 billion over budget," said Chairman York. "Let me state that again – one billion dollars, with a ‘b’ – over the original cost estimates, and yet they left $300 million on the table by choosing the underground alternative. Further, the option chosen will delay the project by at least six months.

"It is unconscionable that an unelected, federally-appointed Board would burden the taxpayers of Loudoun County with additional costs while not taking advantage of every tax-savings opportunity. I am disappointed and frustrated by the decision of the MWAA Board," York stated.

Chairman York noted that he intends to bring an item to the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors at its next business meeting asking the Board to approve a formal letter requesting that the MWAA Board reconsider its decision, reduce the $1 billion cost overrun by $300 million, and utilize the lesser-cost aerial option. York stated, "If the MWAA Board refuses to reconsider its decision, then MWAA needs to pay for the differential, not its funding partners!"

According to a MWAA press release, the station location offers a more cost-effective version of the 2005 original planned station at the airport and retains the features and underground location of the original station. This modified option will save up to $330 million from the original design estimate for Phase 2 of the rail project .

Savings were obtained through engineering changes that include:
  • A revised tunnel and station design.
  • Reduced tunnel length and depth.
  • Using a different construction method for excavation.
  • Providing air conditioning from an existing airport facility.
  • Moving the required electrical substation above ground.

In selecting the newly-designed underground option, Dulles Corridor Committee Chair Mame Reiley said, "This has been a very difficult decision for the Board as we tried to balance cost considerations with the goal to design an airport station that will serve the region’s travelers and airport employees well into the future. We think this option best achieves that goal."

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board may be reached at 703-417-8600 or at:
Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board
c/o Quince Brinkley, Vice President and Secretary to the Board of Directors
1 Aviation Circle, Washington, D.C.  20001 (email)

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