The June 20 editorial about rail to Dulles International Airport asked whether Metrorail is the best way to go and whether the project is a good deal for the public. The answer to both is yes.

This corridor has been studied for 40 years. Since 1994 more than 200 public meetings have been held on the issue. Alternatives, includ- ing bus rapid transit, have been fully examined. In all this study Metrorail proved the most effective means of providing better access, mobility, capacity and connectivity in the re- gion. Fairfax and Loudoun counties chose Metrorail as the preferred option.

The recently signed comprehensive agreement was negotiated and awarded in accordance with the procedures established by the Public-Private Transportation Act of 1995. It was reviewed and approved by the Virginia attorney general's office. The Federal Transit Administration hired a third party to conduct an additional, independent review. A recent lawsuit challenging this procurement process was dismissed.

The contract is a good deal for Virginia. The negotiated cost for preliminary engineering is 8 percent lower than an independent engineering firm's estimate; based on successful completion of this task, additional negotiations for final design and construction will follow. This fixed price is only one part of a more comprehensive package in which Dulles Transit Partners has assumed millions of dollars of risk.

As with any competitive negotiating process, the confidentiality of negotiations must be respected until they are concluded. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation represents the public interest, and we believe we have negotiated the best possible package for the taxpayer.

KAREN J. RAE

Executive Director

Virginia Department of Rail

and Public Transportation

Richmond