- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority on Wednesday said he has no plans to revisit the board’s decision to build the more expensive of two Metrorail stations at Washington Dulles International Airport.

The April 6 vote by the authority’s 13-member board to approve an underground station $300 million more expensive than an above-ground station has sparked an outcry from the state and local governments who will be forced to pay for much of the difference.

Airports Authority Chairman Charles D. Snelling said that while debate is closed on which of the stations will be built, he is willing to discuss how the state and Fairfax and Loudoun counties will pay for the station.

“I’m not suggesting there’s going to be room for reconsideration,” he said, “but there is room for tailoring to make it more attractive to our partners.”

The authority, which oversees Dulles and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, is in charge of and makes the final decisions for the $3.5 billion plan to extend rail service roughly 23 miles from Reston to Dulles and eastern Loudoun County.

The project, Phase II of Metro’s new Silver line, was originally projected to cost $2.5 billion. Under the current funding agreement, Fairfax would contribute 16 percent of the costs for the second phase, 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.

With regard to the $912 million underground station at Dulles, county and state officials have said they “cannot and will not” fund the additional millions when a cheaper alternative is available.

If they refuse to pay, the board could eliminate stops in Fairfax and Loudoun that are planned for the second phase of the project.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon S. Bulova, a Democrat, said the station dispute was regrettable, considering rail service to Dulles has been a top priority for the county.

“I’d hate for us to not be able to agree at this point,” she said.

Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott K. York argues along with others that the higher cost will put “a huge burden on Toll Road users.”

Meanwhile, the Dulles Corridor Advisory Committee, which advised the airport authority, is moving forward with a new form of contract packaging for Phase II that President and Chief Executive Officer E. Lynn Hampton said “increases competition and reduces risks.”

Rather than send out one large contract, the committee’s recommendation is to divide the project in two: one larger contract for “high-risk elements,” such as rail lines and stations, and a handful of smaller contracts for things like rail yards and utilities relocation.

The only committee member to oppose the plan was Robert Clarke Brown, who called it a “dressed-up” version on the original contract.

• Meredith Somers can be reached at msomers@washingtontimes.com.

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