Kaine and Peters Praise Efforts to Resolve Dispute Over Dulles Rail

Transportation Secretary Mary Peters calls the dialogue
Transportation Secretary Mary Peters calls the dialogue "constructive." Fairfax official Gerald E. Connolly, left, says he thinks the talks will succeed. (Evan Vucci - AP)
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By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 8, 2008

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said yesterday that she and Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine are working closely to complete a federal review of the troubled Metrorail extension to Dulles International Airport.

In a statement with Kaine (D), Peters said "constructive dialogue is ongoing to address outstanding differences" between the Federal Transit Administration and sponsors of the project. Kaine said in the statement that he is pleased with the process.

The statement gave project supporters hope that Virginia's efforts to address federal concerns are having a positive effect. Although the statement offered no timeline for approval or much specificity, supporters said they would be surprised if the project didn't move forward.

"I'd be speechless," said Gerald E. Connolly (D), chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. "We've come so far, and so much has gone into this effort. In the last month, the secretary and the governor have made a real good-faith effort to try to narrow whatever concerns there are and make sure that they're addressed. This letter signals that that is a successful effort, albeit ongoing."

In January, Peters and FTA chief James S. Simpson said the 23-mile, $5 billion Metro extension was unlikely to qualify for $900 million in federal funds, without which, the project would die. In listing his objections, Simpson included the project's escalating cost, concerns about its management by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and reservations about the ability of the underfunded Metro system to operate the line.

At the urging of Kaine and Virginia congressional leaders, Peters agreed to delay the final decision on federal funding and work with the airports authority and Virginia transportation officials on resolving their differences.

Kaine told federal regulators that Virginia would do whatever it could to save the project, which he and most political and business leaders in Northern Virginia consider vital to economic growth in the booming Dulles corridor. The rail line is expected to ease congestion and spur the redevelopment of Tysons Corner, a suburban job center.

"We're genuinely working with them to see if our concerns can be addressed and if there's a way the project can be revisited," a senior FTA official said on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations. "This isn't a fruitless exercise that's taking place."

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