Tuesday, February 5, 2008

RICHMOND (AP) — Gov. Tim Kaine said yesterday that he is willing to discuss modifying plans for the long-awaited extension of Metrorail to WashingtonDulles International Airport if it leads to federal funding.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, and members of the Virginia congressional delegation discussed the $5 billion project during a meeting to review major 2008 federal legislative and regulatory priorities.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) said the rail project would not qualify for critical federal dollars without major changes.

Mr. Kaine argues that issues raised about the project have been addressed.

Still, “the goal is making it happen,” he said. “We’re willing to entertain adjustments.”

Mr. Kaine said the project could go forward without federal funding but not without raising money through such measures as tolls.

State officials seek $900 million in federal money for the project. Late last month, FTA Administrator James S. Simpson announced the project was unlikely to qualify for the money.

Federal officials have given several reasons, among them the project’s high cost and the need for extensive repairs to Metro’s existing infrastructure — repairs that the agency is unsure how it will fund.

In a letter sent Friday to the U.S. Transportation Department and FTA officials, Mr. Kaine asked for specific instructions on the Dulles extension.

Mr. Kaine said yesterday that the 23-mile rail line is increasingly important as more businesses move to Northern Virginia. Officials have spent more than $140 million in state and federal funds on the project.

“We’re optimistic that under the leadership of our government, we will succeed in getting this project on the road,” said retiring Sen. John W. Warner, a Republican.

The project was one of several topics at Mr. Kaine’s private meeting with the delegation. The governor said lawmakers also discussed the state response to federal Real ID regulations and Chesapeake Bay initiatives.

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