- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Design changes to a planned extension of metropolitan Washington’s Metrorail system through Tysons Corner to Reston have cut costs by 25 percent to $1.8 billion, bringing the project in line with federal cost-efficiency standards, officials said yesterday.

The cost savings were achieved largely by shortening a tunnel underneath Tysons Corner and bringing the tracks and a Metro station to the surface level, along with some other design changes, said Sam Carnaggio, a project director for the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

The $1.8 billion cost estimate is significantly lower than a $2.4 billion projection made in June. Had it remained at $2.4 billion, there is little chance the proposal would have received funding because it would have flunked federal standards for cost-effectiveness.

Mr. Carnaggio said he thinks the project now meets federal standards, and the challenge actually will be to obtain the funding from federal, state and local sources.

The plan calls for the federal government to pay for half of the project, with 25 percent coming from the state through increased tolls on the Dulles Toll Road and 25 percent local funding from a special taxing district on commercial property owners along the Dulles corridor.

Mr. Carnaggio said he hopes to have funding in place by the end of 2006, at which time groundbreaking could begin and the project could be completed by 2011.

The $1.8 billion covers the first 11-mile phase of a proposed 23-mile extension of Metrorail to Washington Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County. Planners estimate that the line will draw more than 90,000 daily trips when completed.

Delegate Kenneth Plum, Reston Democrat and chairman of the Dulles Corridor Rail Association, an advocacy group for the rail extension, said he thinks the $1.8 billion cost estimate is “an excellent figure to be at.”

“We still have to go through final negotiations with the contractor, which presents an opportunity to reduce costs even more,” Mr. Plum said.

He acknowledged that an underground line is aesthetically preferable to aboveground, “but it’s extraordinarily costly to do that.”

The plan now calls for a half-mile tunnel underneath the heart of traffic-choked Tysons Corner, compared to earlier plans that called for a tunnel up to a mile in length. In Tysons Corner, most of the rail line will be elevated on the medians of Route 123 and Route 7.

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