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The One Fiber Optic Cable No One on the Dig for Tysons Rail Wants to Hit

More than 75 miles of conduit in the Tysons Corner area must be moved.
More than 75 miles of conduit in the Tysons Corner area must be moved. (By Richard A. Lipski -- The Washington Post)
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"Every time we dig a hole, we run into issues that we didn't expect," he said.

Such issues are likely to resurface this summer, when construction on a short tunnel between routes 123 and 7 is scheduled to begin. Above the tunnel's path, just outside Clyde's Restaurant, is a giant microwave communications tower operated by the U.S. Army. And if you want to know what the 280-foot tower is for, too bad. "The specific uses of the system to which this particular antenna is attached" are classified, Army spokesman Dave Foster said.

Other government agencies located near Tysons also had little to say. A CIA spokeswoman would not comment when asked about the agency's use of communications lines through Tysons. And Mike Birmingham, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (located at the intersection of the Dulles Toll Road and Route 123), would say only that if a communications line used by the agency was cut, the nation's intelligence-gathering would carry on uninterrupted.

"No particular project puts us at risk -- highway construction, building construction," Birmingham said. "We don't have a single point of failure. Our systems are redundant."

Georgelas, the developer whose company was overseeing the work in 2000 when the Chevrolet Suburbans drove up to the Greensboro Corporate Center, said he figured that the government was involved when an AT&T crew arrived the same day to fix the line, rather than waiting days. His opinion didn't change when AT&T tried to bill his company for the work but immediately backed down when his company balked.

"These lines are not cheap to move," Georgelas said. "They said, 'You owe us $300,000.' We said, 'Are you nuts?' "

The charges just disappeared.

Goguen, the engineer with the Dulles rail project, laughs at the stories of past encounters but has no desire to meet up with the men in the black SUVs.

"We've been here a year," he said, "and it hasn't happened to us yet."

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