- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 23, 2006

Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project officials expect to know by next week when construction can begin on the rail line, depending on whether Virginia officials decide to build part of the line above or under the ground.

“When the governor announces the final plan, we’ll have a much more concise time for when construction will start,” said Jennifer D. Aument, a spokeswoman for the project.

Officials had hoped to begin construction by December on the project, a 23-mile track extension from near Falls Church to eastern Loudoun County. But a team of engineers is considering placing about four miles of the rail underground through Tysons Corner, instead of on a mostly elevated track.

The minor delay, which has caused the $4 billion project to lose $1 million a week since July 1, likely will keep crews from starting construction until the first half of next year.

Officials discussed the delay and other aspects of the project Friday with a group of adult students from the Richmond-based nonprofit Lead Virginia. The group was in the area as part of a three-day course to study economic, transportation and other important issues affecting the region.

“It prepares these leaders to really understand what these issues are,” said Susan Timmons, president and chief executive officer of Lead Virginia. “They can take that knowledge and have a new type of civil engagement.”

The students — most of whom are senior-level executives and community business leaders from across the state — also heard from Dulles project Director Charles S. “Sam” Carnaggio and John Milliken, a former Virginia secretary of transportation, about the rail project, which is intended to alleviate the area’s traffic congestion and boost the region’s economy.

Officials expect the entire project to be finished by 2015.

“Everybody gripes about the transportation issues in Northern Virginia,” Mr. Milliken told about 40 students in attendance. “This project is intended to be at least a piece of that solution.”

The Northern Virginia tour was the fourth of seven visits to different regions of the state for the Lead Virginia course. The group also visited George Mason University; heard from area politicians such as Gerald E. Connolly, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors; and examined leadership case studies on housing and immigration in the area.

James D. Campbell, executive director of the Virginia Association of Counties and a participant in Lead Virginia, said the Northern Virginia visit gave the group more appreciation of the local economy and more understanding of regional issues.

“The transportation issues that Northern Virginia faces can bring difficulties in continuing [its] economic growth,” said Mr. Campbell, 57, of Richmond. “By recognizing that, the folks [in Lead Virginia] from other parts of the state will recognize the need to try to find state support.”

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