$300 Million Cut in Dulles Rail Project Is Proposed

On Capitol Hill, tunnel advocate Joe Nocerino of Vienna criticizes the planned aboveground Metro route.
On Capitol Hill, tunnel advocate Joe Nocerino of Vienna criticizes the planned aboveground Metro route. "It's really going to be a blight," he says. (By Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)
By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 14, 2007

Top Virginia politicians from both parties joined forces on Capitol Hill yesterday to propose cutting more than $300 million from the planned Metro line to Dulles International Airport to meet cost guidelines and thus pressure the Federal Transit Administration to approve the project.

Flanked by prominent Virginia politicians, including U.S. Sen. John W. Warner (R) and Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R), Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) sent a powerful message to the agency, which the project is counting on for $900 million. In several recent critical reports, the FTA has warned that the project is gravely overbudget and risks not qualifying for the federal money, without which the $5.1 billion project will fail.

"The good-faith challenge was: 'You're close, but you've got to take some costs out of this project,' " Kaine said. "And we took them up on that challenge."

Added Warner: "This must move forward, and we're confident that they will treat this fairly and objectively and in accordance with the law."

Although intended as a celebration of the state's efforts to trim costs, the announcement didn't go entirely as planned. Two Northern Virginia congressmen, Thomas M. Davis III (R) and James P. Moran Jr. (D), did not attend. And a small contingent of protesters confronted the governor over his decision to stick with an aboveground design through Tysons Corner despite broad public support for a tunnel.

Kaine opted for the aboveground rail line after four months of study showing, he said, that pursuing a tunnel could cost too much, take too long and jeopardize federal funding. The most ardent tunnel advocates disagreed.

"That's going to be a monstrosity," said Joe Nocerino of Vienna, wearing an "Under Not Over" button and a TysonsTunnel.org T-shirt. "It's really going to be a blight."

But Kaine and others said the 23-mile Silver Line, which will stretch from Falls Church through Tysons to the airport and Loudoun County, is too important to the region's economy to jeopardize by pursuing the potentially expensive and time-consuming construction of a tunnel.

Wolf said, "If we miss this opportunity, it will be a long, long time before we'll ever get it again."

That was not enough for some in the audience, who pointedly questioned Kaine, interrupted him and tried to shout him down, saying the tunnel option has not been sufficiently explored.

William T. Coleman Jr., a former U.S. secretary of transportation, was among those who confronted Kaine. Coleman described himself as a passionate supporter of the tunnel. He is also a lawyer whose clients include WestGroup, a prominent Tysons developer with plans for property along the Metro line. WestGroup has been the primary financial backer of TysonsTunnel.org.

"In this case, you're making the biggest mistake you've made so far in your career," Coleman said.

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