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Dulles Metrorail Project Wins Federal Planning Approval

Thu December 07, 2006 - Southeast Edition
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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) Metrorail’s 23-mi. extension to Washington Dulles International Airport moved a step further with a Federal Transit Administration decision that signifies the end of planning for the project’s first phase, transit officials said.

The FTA on Nov. 17 approved a “Record of Decision” for the first phase, an 11.6-mi. segment from East Falls Church through Tysons Corner to the eastern edge of Reston that could cost $2.1 billion and is scheduled to be completed in 2012.

The approval means the federal government believes planners are heading in the right direction with a design that calls for building an elevated track through Tysons, said Sam Carnaggio, the project’s director.

The decision comes several days after a group created by the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce said it was working to raise $3 million from businesses and residents to pay for engineering designs that could prove a tunnel should be built instead of the 35-ft.-high track.

More than 200 residents gathered in mid-November to hear experts who argue that building the elevated track would hurt efforts to turn Tysons into a walkable downtown similar to Arlington County’s Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine declared the tunnel plan dead in September after federal officials stressed that the cost of an underground option put the entire 23-mi., $4 billion project at risk.

Planners hope the second phase will extend the rail line beyond Dulles International Airport into Loudoun County by 2015.

Matthew Tucker, director of the state’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation, said the project cannot be built without federal funding.

“The risk of losing federal funding increases every day with escalation, changes in commodity prices, and increasing competition for scarce federal dollars,” he said in a statement released by the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project. “After 45 years of planning, the time to put a shovel in the ground is now.”

The recent decision means project officials can focus on getting final design approval in the spring and start construction in the fall of 2007, project spokeswoman Marcia McAllister said.

It also means the project is on track for getting federal funding for the first phase — expected to be about half of the project’s cost, she said. Fairfax County and the state each will pick up 25 percent of the cost.