Dulles Rail's Completion Date Delayed

By Derek Kravitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 23, 2009

The second portion of the Silver Line, Metrorail's much-anticipated 23-mile extension to Dulles, will not be completed until at least December 2016, a year after the original projected end date, transit officials said Tuesday.

James E. Bennett, president of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, told the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors that the second phase of the $5.2 billion project would take an extra year to complete. It would extend Metro nearly 12 miles from a to-be-built stop at Reston Parkway to Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County.

"Because we were a little late in starting, phase two will have to take some extra time," Bennett said.

Members of the airports authority's governing board came up with the revised date this month after consulting with engineers. A formal ruling on the new schedule is set for May 6.

The project's first phase will extend Metrorail from the Orange Line between the East and West Falls Church stations and include four stops in Tysons Corner.

The delay in the Silver Line's completion date stems from a protracted political fight on Capitol Hill over $900 million in federal funding for the first phase of the project. Congress signed off on the rail extension to Reston in December.

"It's unfortunate that it had to be delayed, but that's past history," said Patricia Nicoson, president of the Dulles Corridor Rail Association, a nonprofit group that supports the rail expansion. "I think the airport [authority] will do their utmost to get this going as quickly as they can."

Nicoson said officials could insert incentives and penalties to get contractors to meet earlier deadlines, thereby getting the project finished before 2016, as the airports authority has done with other rail contracts.

The second part of the Silver Line will be funded through proceeds from the Dulles Toll Road and tax revenue from Fairfax and Loudoun counties. No matching federal funding is expected.

The next step for the project is preliminary engineering, which will take about 18 months and end in early to mid-2011, Bennett said.

He also said that a final decision on the location of the Route 606 rail stop, which is being discussed by Loudoun officials, needs to be made by the end of summer 2010.

H. Chris Antigone, a Northern Virginia developer, has urged officials to move the station -- proposed for the median of the Dulles Greenway -- less than a mile northwest, next to a planned hotel and convention center. Antigone has argued that building the station in the median would not be pedestrian-friendly.

But county planners are worried about the proposed hotel site's proximity to the Broad Run floodplain, as well the noise and height restrictions the hotel project might face because of the nearby airport.

Supervisors had asked the airports authority for guidance on the proposed move. On Tuesday, Bennett instead told board members that he wanted to get a clearer idea from Loudoun officials about their "vision for the 606 station."

"They are looking for our opinion," said Chairman Scott K. York (I-At Large). Board members promised to examine the issue more thoroughly in the coming months.

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