Officials drop one site considered for Dulles Metro station

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 6, 2011; 6:28 PM

Officials in charge of the Metrorail extension to Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County struck down a proposed outdoor site for the airport station, citing the cost and scope of the project and its potential to mar views of the architecturally significant main terminal.

The board of directors of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority voted Wednesday to drop the location from one of four sites under consideration.

"We did preliminary engineering to come to the conclusion that this would not be a viable financial option, and we were concerned with the historical preservation issues," said Charles D. Snelling, chairman of the authority.

Plans for the rail stop included an aboveground station on the roadway for the arrivals level of the main terminal. The roadway would have been relocated into the hourly parking lot, eliminating parking spaces and affecting ground transportation.

The proposed location also would have blocked views of the main terminal, an issue raised by state historic preservation officials. The terminal, which features a sloped roof and glass walls, was designed by Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen and has been described as "structural poetry."

"He planned it out very deliberately that as you were driving up . . . you would get glimpses of the terminal," said Marc Holma, a state architectural historian with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. "I'm glad that the board has decided against the terminal station option."

The board is considering three other options for a Metro station site: an aboveground station adjacent to the north garage and two underground stations - one beneath the parking lot in front of the main terminal and one leading into the main terminal.

The cost of each option is unclear. A consultant's estimate released in September said that original plans for an underground station would cost $640 million more than an outdoor station.

Officials say that cost estimates will be revealed after preliminary engineering results are finished for the three site options.

"I'm not putting out any more numbers until I have a much more factual basis to do so," Snelling said.

The cost of the 23-mile rail extension, which is being built in two phases, could balloon to nearly $6.6 billion depending on the location of the Dulles station. Original estimates were about $5.3 billion.

The price tag for the first phase is $2.75 billion. Phase 1 to Wiehle Avenue in Reston is scheduled to open in 2013. The second phase is slated to be finished three years later.

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