Transportation secretary: Cut costs of Metro station

Several Loudoun leaders want to send Metrorail trains flying at Dulles International Airport.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton wrote a letter March 15 addressed to Charles Snelling, chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, imploring the chairman to change Dulles airport’s proposed underground Metrorail station to an aerial station.

Connaughton’s main reason behind beseeching the change is that it will save $640 million in taxpayer money.

The second phase of Metrorail’s expansion to Loudoun, which includes the Dulles airport station, is more expensive than was initially anticipated. Phase two is projected to cost $3.8 billion – a more than $1 billion increase over its original projection. Phase one costs $2.7 billion.

Loudoun Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York (I-at-large) said last month that he endorsed Metrorail’s aerial station as a cost-cutting measure.

The Loudoun Economic Development Commission voted unanimously to endorse the above-ground option in September. Chairman John Wood, who is also the chief executive officer at Telos Corp. in Ashburn, said at the time that he saw five dollar signs in front of the underground option and only two dollar signs in front of the aerial proposal.

Metrorail currently has designs for an underground tunnel station as well as an aerial, or above-ground, station.

By selecting the aerial alternative, the authority would be showing taxpayers that they are concerned about the use of valuable state and local dollars and assets, Connaughton said.

Funding for construction comes from local jurisdictions, an increase in tolls on the Dulles Toll Road and the creation of a special tax district surrounding the Metro stops.

Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova scribed a letter to Snelling last month. In it, she states that Phase two cost estimates do not sit well with the Fairfax board.

“When coupled with the recent information about actual costs exceeding budget for station finishes on [phase one], the county is further concerned about the accuracy of the cost estimate for [phase two],” she writes.

“If the Airports Authority Board favors an alignment that is more costly than the aerial alignment, then the Airports Authority should fund the differential without impacting Fairfax County or tolls on the Dulles Toll Road,” she said.

Connaughton also expressed concern about rising toll rates on the Dulles Toll Road. He said that toll rates must remain as low as possible and that the authority “must do anything possible with alternative design selection, value engineering, excellent project management and oversight and creative financing to keep costs low.”

Connaughton also pointed out that Fairfax and Loudoun County leaders have endorsed the aerial station, as both governments have direct impact with finance commitments to the project.

Contact the writer at hhager@timespapers.com.

This article was first published by Hannah Hager on LoudounTimes.com.

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