Will Northern Virginia commuters get stuck with the tab for the more expensive underground Metro station at Dulles International Airport?
That’s the rallying cry from a variety of political figures, including Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton, the supervisory boards of Loudoun and Fairfax Counties and, now, rising conservative political star Jamie Radtke, who is running for U.S. Senate. They say putting the Metro station underground would be too expensive and the funding scheme too one-sided.
The decision to take the Dulles stop underground at an extra cost of $330 million was recently made by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which critics claim is being less than transparent regarding how it settled on the station plan. They say the problem is that MWAA is not elected and answers to no one.
They also claim that former governor and current Democratic Senate hopeful Tim Kaine deserves the blame for giving control of the $6.6 billion rail-to-Dulles project to the MWAA board, only a minority of which is from Virginia.
According to my follow blogger at Bacon’s Rebellion, the lion’s share of the project -- 57.2 percent -- will be paid by commuters who pay tolls on the Dulles Toll Road. Most of these drivers are Virginia residents who are likely to drive to the airport when they use Dulles’s services. So they are going to get stuck paying for a service they may not use much.
Marylanders and D.C. residents won’t be so burdened, although they do contribute to the federal tax dollars that are paying 14.8 percent of the project’s cost. If you live in the District near a Metro stop, you will be able to enjoy a nifty service that, for a few bucks, will take you all the way to a warm or cool and certainly dry underground station at the airport. That, of course, would include members of Congress and other government officials.
There is a point to be made about not sticking NoVa residents with more than half the bill for the airport train. MWAA is kicking in only 4.8 percent. And I must say that MWAA seems a bit monolithic. I tried and failed to get a press person there to talk to me for a recent item. No one seems to know who that might be.
On the other hand, Washington is the capital of the most powerful nation on earth. Dulles is the area’s showcase international airport. Why can’t we have an underground Metro stop that is quick, efficient and offers shelter from the elements?
Finding a new way to share the funding might be in order, although it is likely to be politically impossible. But Virginia politicians should not be allowed to sidetrack proper rail service at Dulles just for their own political gain or dogma du jour. They should aim higher than starting a blame game with Kaine as the target. After all, Virginia has dozens of other authorities that don’t seem to answer to anyone.