Governor Bob McDonnell sent a letter to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) today, calling on its board of directors to reconsider its recent vote to pursue a tunnel alignment for the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project through the Dulles International Airport. The Commonwealth and localities have expressed frustration regarding the MWAA vote to pursue a more expensive tunnel alignment for the project.
“The tunnel alignment has, by all accounts, been shown to be the much more expensive alignment through the airport, costing hundreds of millions more than the aerial alignment with relatively minimal positive logistical or aesthetic benefit,” McDonnell wrote. “Taxpayers in Northern Virginia will bear the burden of this significant cost difference, which will make it difficult to achieve the Commonwealth’s goal of reaching a total project cost close to the original $2.5 billion. I, along with the project’s local government funding partners in the town of Herndon, and Loudoun and Fairfax counties, are very surprised and disappointed in the MWAA board’s very costly decision and hope that upon further reflection, the board would come to the more fiscally sound decision to pursue the aerial alignment.”
The MWAA board voted to pursue the tunnel alignment for the project in its meeting in early April. The decision will likely add $250 to $300 million to the project cost and places in jeopardy the original $2.5 billion estimate for completion of the next phase of work.
On April 18, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, and Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton sent a joint letter to MWAA expressing “outrage” over this decision and threatening to withhold their portion of funding unless the board reconsidered.
“To state our position very clearly, we cannot and will not fund the additional cost of the tunnel alternative in Dulles Airport when a less expensive alternative can be constructed with less risk and in a shorter period of time,” the letter read. “We are perplexed as to why the MWAA Board of Directors ignored its funding partners and made these decisions in isolation.”
In March 2008, the Commonwealth transferred operations and maintenance responsibilities of the Dulles Toll Road from the Virginia Department of Transportation to MWAA to help finance the cost of the project.
“The Commonwealth asked MWAA to ensure the most cost effective construction for Phase 2 of the project, and the decision to pursue a tunnel alignment raises concerns about MWAA’s commitment to the Commonwealth to ensure cost sensitive leadership,” said Connaughton. “The costly tunnel alignment will place a heavy financial burden on local funding partners and Dulles Toll Road users.”
The Dulles Metrorail extension will expand the existing Metrorail system from the East Falls Church station on the Orange Line in Fairfax County through Tysons Corner to Washington Dulles International Airport and beyond the airport to Route 772/Ryan Road in Loudoun County.
To read a copy of the letter, visit http://www.drpt.virginia.gov/news/files/Letter.pdf