Gov. Bob McDonnell said Monday that the state would not contribute $150 million to the construction of the rail extension to Dulles International Airport, despite pleas for more money from the board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
“At this point, I’m certainly not willing to do that,’’ McDonnell said in an interview. “We need to reduce the cost back to the $2.5 billion estimate that we had when this project first started ...We haven’t put a dime of new money on the table, and at this point we don’t have any plans to.”
Local, state and federal officials — including McDonnell — are pushing the airports authority to drop plans of building an underground Metrorail station closer to the terminal and to construct a cheaper above-ground station.
Last week, the board met to consider a possible compromise brokered by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that would reduce the cost to below $3 billion. That proposal includes building an above-ground station to save at least $330 million.
Participants in the LaHood talks say that Virginia officials have informally suggested that the state would be willing to contribute an additional $150 million. But some some involved in the talks speculate McDonnell won’t commit on new funding until the board agrees to construct an above-ground station.
McDonnell (R) spoke to Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) Monday at their annual meeting about cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, asking them to urge their appointees to the board to support the above-ground station.
The 13-person board includes members appointed by the president, the governors of Virginia and Maryland and the D.C. mayor. McDonnell said again Monday that he is unhappy with the makeup of the board.
“They need to be more accountable to the citizens and the governor and the local governments of Virginia. That’s not the case,’’ he said. “I have a minority vote in Virginia. D.C., Maryland and the federal government actually have more of a say about airports that are solely in Virginia. I think that’s unacceptable.”
O’Malley said Monday that he has already spoken to his appointees on the board, and he thinks they will support the compromise floated by LaHood.
Last week, Gray reversed his position and he now supports an above-ground station after he was persuaded by McDonnell and former Virginia congressman Tom Davis, a member of the authority’s board.
Board Chairman Charles D. Snelling said last week that any deal would require a heftier financial contribution from the state of Virginia and the federal government, in part to reduce future increases in toll rates for Dulles Toll Road users.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) asked LaHood to urge McDonnell to provide state funding for the project to help reduce the financial burden on Dulles Toll Road commuters.
Connolly said Monday that he is “disappointed” that McDonnell said the state would not contribute money to the project.
“They are the only party that has not contributed,’’ he said. “The state is getting a free ride here. The time has come for the state to put up or shut up.”