But she has emerged as the driving force for building an underground Metro station at Dulles International Airport and the target of criticism from those who prefer a less expensive aboveground location.
Reiley’s position, and her vigorous defense of it, has drawn the ire of a long list of local, state and federal officials from both parties who worry that her refusal to back down will jeopardize federal funding for the second phase of the 23-mile Metrorail extension to Dulles and Loudoun County. Construction is already underway on the first phase through Tysons Corner.
Reiley is just one of 13 members of the board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is charged with managing the more than $6 billion project. But she leads the committee tasked with overseeing the rail line and is the point person representing the board in meetings this month with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
“So far she has not compromised, but we’re just starting a process,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) said after the first two meetings. “She is one person, albeit a very strong and outspoken person.”
‘The Lone Ranger’
That someone with Reiley’s political savvy would be willing to pick a fight with such a broad coalition of elected officials has left some observers scratching their heads. It’s a question Reiley has asked herself.
“There are times I feel like the Lone Ranger out there and think, ‘What the hell am I doing fighting this fight?’ ” said Reiley, who lives with her pug in an Alexandria condo overlooking the runways at Reagan National Airport. “But to me, the worst thing in the world is not to take on the right fight out of fear that you are going to lose.”
Reiley, 58, is known as a fighter both personally and professionally. She preceded a meeting with LaHood with a 6:30 a.m. radiation treatment. Reiley has been battling breast cancer since last summer, coping with surgery, chemotherapy and the accompanying hair loss and fatigue. But she is reticent about the topic because she doesn’t want people to feel sorry for her.
Reiley’s concern about passenger comfort at Dulles is not personal, she said. As a board member, she parks for free — steps from the terminal in a lot also reserved for members of Congress. Reiley became convinced of her position, she said, after chatting with passengers making the trip from Daily Garage 1 to the terminal on a series of moving walkways that would serve those using an aboveground station.
To a person, passengers clamored for a station closer to the terminal, Reiley said, in an airport they already consider a trek. If the station is too far away, she worries no one would use it and the project would be a failure.