- The Washington Times - Monday, April 25, 2011

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell on Monday put his political weight behind the effort to get the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board to reconsider its decision to build the more expensive of two Dulles Metrorail station options, calling the move a “stunning” blow to the collaborative process.

Mr. McDonnell, a Republican, sent a letter to authority board Chairman Charles D. Snelling asking that the 13-member board of directors “promptly reconsider and change its vote” to build a $912 million underground rail station at Washington Dulles International Airport.

He said the station had “relatively minimal positive logistical or aesthetic benefit” and it would financially burden Northern Virginia taxpayers more than expected.

Mr. McDonnell’s transportation secretary, Sean T. Connaughton, had already issued a letter opposing the project.

Other Northern Virginia officials who have opposed the more expensive rail station include Rep. Frank R. Wolf, a Republican, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon S. Bulova, a Democrat, and Loudoun Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott K. York, an independent.

A McDonnell spokeswoman said the governor’s office has no authority to stop the project. But Mr. York said Mr. McDonnell’s support carries extra weight and that he was pleased with the governor’s effort.

“It’s showing leadership that is needed from the state,” Mr York said, acknowledging similar support from Mr. Connaughton. “Hopefully this reinforces the need for the airports authority to reconsider their vote and go with the [above-ground] option.”

The station is part of the second half of the 23-mile long Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, which will extend Metro service to Dulles and eastern Loudoun County.

The Phase II project had an original price tag of $2.5 billion but has since increased to $3.5 billion. The cheaper, above-ground station at the airport would cost about $612 million.

Under the current Phase II funding agreement, Fairfax would contribute 16 percent of the costs, Loudoun would contribute 5 percent and the airports authority would pay 4 percent. The rest would be funded with revenues from the Dulles Toll Road.

“This decision ignores the recommendation of MWAA staff and is a stunning reversal of the collaborative decision making process, involving all funding partners used during Phase I,” Mr. McDonnell wrote.

Phase I starts Metro Silver line service from the East Falls Church station, in Arlington, to Reston. It is expected to cost $2.7 billion and be completed by 2013.

Airports authority spokeswoman Tara Hamilton said that as of Monday afternoon Mr. Snelling had yet to receive Mr. McDonnell’s letter, which the governor posted on his office’s website. However, the chairman “welcomes the opportunity to speak with the governor to discuss his concerns,” she said.

The airports authority board voted 9-4 vote April 6 in favor of the underground station. The authority oversees Washington Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports, is in charge of the project and makes the final decision.

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