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Airports authority invites officials to discuss Dulles Metrorail decision

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The chairman of the board that oversees the Washington region’s airports has invited Virginia officials to discuss the board’s decision to construct an underground Metrorail station at Dulles International Airport instead of pursuing a less expensive option.

Local and state officials have criticized the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board for choosing a plan that could cost as much as $330 million more than building an aboveground station. The decision cannot be directly appealed by the regional entities that are helping to fund the project.

In a letter dated Monday, board Chairman Charles D. Snelling wrote that he is willing to sit down with local and state officials to clarify the decision and explain how the board plans to “build a high-quality project on time and at the lowest possible cost.”

“I suggest that it would be very constructive for us to meet to discuss these issues fully and seek common ground,” Snelling wrote.

Last week, a group of county and state officials drafted a joint letter to Snelling that criticized plans for the underground station and threatened to withdraw their portion of funding for the project. Though the airports authority is overseeing the 23-mile Metrorail extension project — which eventually will connect East Falls Church to Ashburn in eastern Loudoun County — it is financing only 4.1 percent of the cost. The rest of the bill will be financed by Fairfax and Loudoun counties along with state and federal funds and revenue from the Dulles Toll Road.

Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) plans to host a news conference in his Herndon office Monday afternoon to demand that the airports authority board reverse its decision. Wolf will be joined by Scott K. York, chairman of the Loudoun Board of Supervisors, and other local representatives.

Snelling wrote in his letter — which was addressed to York, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova and Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton — that the board had found a “less costly” way to build an underground station at Dulles since plans were last discussed and approved in 2005.

The board is also looking “at each and every aspect of this rail project to find cost savings,” he wrote.

The extension is being built in two phases: The first will connect East Falls Church to four stations in Tysons Corner and one in Reston. That phase is expected to be completed in 2013 at a cost of $2.75 billion.

The second phase will connect the Reston stop to Ashburn, including an underground stop at Dulles, at a cost of $3.5 billion.

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