Federal Transit Administration chief Peter M. Rogoff made the suggestion to buy fewer rail cars as officials from around the region seek ways to reduce costs for phase two of the Metro line, which will serve Dulles. County, state and federal governments, along with fees from the Dulles Toll Road, are paying for the project.
On Thursday, Metro officials are expected to present board members with feedback from rider focus groups on the design of the new rail cars, known as the 7000 Series, and on changing some rail station names. The Metro extension includes 11 new stations, with five in phase one, scheduled to open by 2013, and six in phase two, which is targeted for completion by 2016.
The second phase of the Metrorail extension has come under scrutiny for its increasing costs, now estimated at almost $3.5 billion. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been mediating talks between the airports authority and regional leaders, who have been at odds over whether the station at Dulles should be closer to the main terminal and underground, at a higher cost, or farther away and aboveground.
Metro is ordering rail cars for the Dulles line as well as replacements for the 300 oldest cars in its fleet, known as the 1000 Series. In its report on the 2009 Red Line accident, which killed nine people, the National Transportation Safety Board said the 1000 Series cars pose an “unacceptable risk to Metrorail users.”
Plans call for Metro to order 428 of the new 7000 Series cars from Kawasaki. More than a quarter of the cars will be used on the Dulles line, according to Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. The cost of the order is $886 million, which includes design, parts and training, Metro said.
In a July 3 white paper addressed to project stakeholders, Rogoff wrote that the 7000 Series cars will be “manufactured in sets of four cars, which are estimated to cost approximately $12 million each.”
“If two sets of vehicles can be eliminated from the project budget,” he wrote, there would be a savings of up to $24 million. Rogoff declined to comment on his memo.
Metro officials are reviewing the system’s needs and could decide to place the full order but use more of the new rail cars elsewhere in the system, transit officials said.
Stessel wrote in an e-mail Monday that the transit authority has not taken a position on Rogoff’s proposal.
“We’re not going to speculate on something that is predecisional,” he said.
The rail cars are going to be assembled in Lincoln, Neb., and are expected to be delivered by the end of 2013.
Riders’ feedback on names
As Metro prepares for the Dulles line, it has hired the designer of the original rail system map to integrate changes. Officials also hope to shorten some cumbersome station names, and they must approve names for the new line.