Board OKs Dulles Rail financing but wants more money

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Local,Virginia,Transportation,Liz Essley

The airports authority in charge of building the Dulles Metro rail approved a new agreement to fund the $2.8 billion second phase of the project Wednesday, but leaders say they plan to seek even more funding from Virginia and the federal government.

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has already agreed to give the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority as much as $250 million in loans. That's far more than expected earlier this year, but still far less than authority members want, officials said Wednesday.

"Clearly, LaHood pulled something out of his hat," MWAA's Dulles Committee Chairwoman Mame Reiley said. "We're grateful he found money we were all told didn't exist."

The $250 million, authority members said, is not enough to ensure that tolls won't have to be raised significantly on the Dulles Toll Road to help pay for the rail line, which will run from Falls Church through Tysons Corner and out to Washington Dulles International Airport.

Reiley said the authority wants $1 billion from the federal government.

"Does [$250 million] bring [tolls] down enough? Of course not, it doesn't even begin to," she said. "It's a beginning. But by no means are we satisfied with that."

Finance Committee Chairman Bob Brown raised the same concerns.

"All this is in the right direction. As we used to say when I was a kid, it's better than a sharp stick in the eye," Brown said. "From my own perspective, it's a very disappointing amount [of federal financing]."

Board members also discussed the possibility of asking Virginia for more money. The state promised $150 million for the project under the new agreement, but has resisted past calls for it to increase that funding.

Examiner Archives
  • Dulles rail board promises more transparency (11-5-11)
  • Dulles rail official slams contractor delays (11-2-11)
  • "Virginia clearly has an interest in helping us with the tolls," board chairman Charles Snelling told reporters.

    The authority's current estimates show the Dulles Toll Road could cost $8 round-trip by 2019. Earlier estimates suggested the round-trip toll would be at least $20.

    Reiley said the authority would soon conduct a new tolls study.

    lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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