- The Washington Times - Friday, December 29, 2006

The agency that runs Washington Dulles International Airport signed an agreement yesterdayto take over operation of the Dulles Toll Road and use revenue from tolls to pay for Metrorail’s extension to the airport.

The 50-year deal calls for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which also runs Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, to operate the road and manage construction of the project to extend Metro’s Orange Line 23 miles from West Falls Church to Tysons Corner, the airport and Loudoun County.

The airports authority had sought control of the road because it was concerned the multi-billion dollar Metro extension would be delayed or canceled. The actual costs will not be determined until the fall, the authority said.

Construction most likely would begin in 2008, said Tara Hamilton, spokeswoman for the airports authority.

James E. Bennett, president and chief executive officer of the airports authority, said extending rail service to Dulles and beyond is significant to the airport’s growth. There are plans for a Metro stop at the airport beneath the hourly parking lot in front of the main terminal.

“This is the first of many steps that will lead us closer to fulfilling the vision of having rail in the Dulles Corridor to Dulles Airport and beyond to Loudoun County,” he said yesterday.

Dulles is the Washington area’s busiest airport, with a record 27 million passengers in 2005. The airport estimates the passenger count will increase to 30 million by 2010.

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine agreed in March to transfer the road to the airports authority. The airports authority’s board unanimously approved the deal last week.

“The transfer of operations from the commonwealth [of Virginia] to the airports authority is the best way to ensure that rail is built all the way to the airport and Loudoun County and that every penny of toll revenue stays in the corridor,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer.

The transportation department likely will continue to operate the road until the fall, when the authority is expected to take over daily operations.

The deal gives the airports authority the ability to increase tolls along the 14-mile highway that links the Capital Beltway near Falls Church and continues west through Fairfax County past the airport, ending at the Dulles Greenway. It carries 200,000 cars a day.

Tolls currently range from 50 cents to 75 cents each way. Authority officials said there will be an increase to pay for about half of the rail extension. The amount of the toll increase will be decided after new cost estimates on the rail project are completed next year.

“For the driver, nothing is going to change well into the fall of 2007, or even after that,” Ms. Hamilton said.

The road generated $43.6 million in tolls for the Virginia Transportation Department in fiscal 2006, which ended June 30.

The Transportation Department has operated the road since it opened in 1984.



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