Northern Virginia officials, whose constituents will bear the brunt of the project's financial burden, said the underground station was a deal breaker because it would have increased overall costs by at least $330 million.
The compromises, proposed by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood after a month of meetings with the stakeholders, would bring the cost of the project to about $2.8 billion, down from prior estimates closer to $3.8 billion. Loudoun and Fairfax counties would assume responsibility -- with the near-promise of state and federal assistance -- for millions of dollars in new construction spending.
Airports authority board members made the move reluctantly, saying the location of the station has little effect on the longer term goal of keeping tolls affordable along the Dulles Toll Road. Toll road revenue will fund 75 percent of the cost of the rail project.
The station placement "had become a political football, and we're in an election cycle," said Mame Reiley, who had been the underground station's most ardent supporter. "We have elected officials running for office and they wanted to put on a bumper sticker saying 'underground means higher tolls,' ... and that's simply not the case."
Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova and Loudoun Chairman Scott York called Reiley's charge absurd.
"To paint this as only an election year issue is not fair and not true," Bulova said.
York was characteristically more blunt: "She's just full of herself. ... The impact on the people on the toll roads is why Fairfax, Loudoun and the state have been fighting this fight. It's been a long process of many heads at [the airports authority] buried in the ground, and today they finally popped up in the air."
Preliminary projections put tolls -- currently at $2.25 for a one-way trip -- closer to $10 per trip by 2020.
Robert Brown, chairman of the airports authority's finance committee and the board's one dissenting vote, argued vehemently for more assistance from the federal government in the form of low-interest loans. Only federal assistance, he said, could significantly affect future toll rates.
Federal Transit Administration head Peter Rogoff said the government has already "gone the extra mile and then some" for the project, pointing to $900 million in funding for the first phase of construction, among other things.
Bulova, York and airports authority Chairman Charles Snelling presented their boards' decisions and concerns to LaHood Wednesday afternoon Representatives from each of the parties, as well as state and Metro officials, will continue to meet throughout the summer to iron out remaining details.