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Pricey Dulles rail station upsets county lawmakers

Doesn’t fit Fairfax, Loudoun budgets

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Loudoun and Fairfax county officials refuse to pay for the more-expensive Metro station at Washington Dulles International Airport that they had no role in approving.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority last week opted to build an underground station closer to the airport terminal rather than an above-ground station farther away that would cost $300 million less. The decision was a smack to the face of Loudoun and Fairfax county officials, who say they can't afford to pay their share for a project that already is $1 billion over expected costs.

"I think the issue here is the fact that they are not acting like we are funding partners in this, but just a cash cow to be able to get to the airport," Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott K. York said

Under the current funding agreement, Fairfax would contribute 16 percent of the costs for the second phase of the project that extends the rail line from Wiehle Avenue in Reston to Dulles. Loudoun would contribute 5 percent and the airports authority would pay 4 percent. The rest would be funded with revenue from the Dulles Toll Road.

Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton, a Republican, joined Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon S. Bulova, a Democrat, and Mr. York, an independent, with a letter expressing their outrage and ask the authority to reconsider. They said they cannot afford the extra cost for the underground station when the alternative could be constructed with less risk and in a shorter period of time.

"The [airports authority] has bypassed its funding partners and gave no consideration to the fiscal impact of this decision on Fairfax County, Loudoun County, the Commonwealth and those who use Dulles Toll Road," they said in the letter to the board.

Lacking any real authority on the airports authority board, the counties play an advisory role in the two-phase project to extend the Metrorail to Tysons Corner, Dulles and into eastern Loudoun County. If they refuse to pay, the board could eliminate stops in Fairfax and Loudoun that are planned for the second phase of the project.

Mr. York said it's "concerning" that the board is ignoring the wishes of the localities.

The Loudoun chairman said he will ask the county's Board of Supervisors to sign on to the joint letter Monday. Mrs. Bulova received unanimous support from the Fairfax board Tuesday. Mrs. Bulova also is reaching out to Northern Virginia lawmakers for support, including Rep. Frank R. Wolf, a Republican, and Rep. Gerald E. Connolly and Sen. Mark R. Warner, both Democrats.

The first phase of the project extends a new Silver Line from the East Falls Church station through Tysons Corner to Wiehle Avenue in Reston at a cost of $2.75 billion. In the second phase, the line will extend from Wiehle Avenue to Ashburn in eastern Loudoun. Orginally priced at $2.5 billion, the projected final cost of phase two with an underground Dulles station now stands at $3.5 billion.

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