- The Washington Times - Monday, March 9, 2009

DEVELOPING:

Virginia officials and the U.S. Department of Transportation Tuesday will participate in a ceremony sealing the approval of $900 million in federal funding for a long-awaited rail line to Washington Dulles International Airport — a move meaning relief for thousands of gridlocked commuters is now officially in sight.

The department will execute a “full-funding agreement” with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is managing the project. The accord signifies that work to complete the first phase of the $5.2 billion rail extension 23 miles of track known as the Silver Line that will service the airport can take place.

Workers already have been moving utilities along Route 7 and 123 and preparing for construction. Full-fledged work on the project is expected to begin this month.

“This is the end of that trail,” said Gordon Hickey, a spokesman for Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat who will attend Tuesday’s signing ceremony along with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and other officials. “It’s a great economic driver for Northern Virginia and the whole region the whole state, even.”

Mr. Kaine’s office put out advance word that the money was about to be approved. Officials at the Federal Transit Administration declined to comment Monday on the grant approval or on Tuesday’s event.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority approved the Dulles rail extension in 2002, but the transit project’s tale could be said to date back to 1962 — the same year operations began at the Dulles airport and when a D.C. Transit study proposed a monorail in the nearby corridor that would end in Georgetown.

Following years of various studies, debates and attempts to finalize funding, the project’s initial milestone now appears imminent.