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MWAA Approves Underground Metro Station at Dulles

Local politicians have concerns about the costs of a DC Metro underground tunnel at Dulles Airport.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Board of Directors voted 9-4 to place the Metro underground at Dulles Airport on Wednesday.  The board said the placement would be more accessbile for travelers, despite the potential increase in costs.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova said she is concerned by MWAA's decision.

This alignment could raise the cost of the project by over $300 million and delay completion by six months, Bulova said in a statement.

“If the underground alignment endorsed by MWAA today results in an increase in the cost of Phase II, then MWAA should be responsible for funding the difference in a way that does not increase the burden on Fairfax County residents or on Dulles Toll Road users,” Bulova said.

Phase II of the rail to Dulles will go from Reston Town Center to Dulles International  Airport is expected to be completed in 2016.

“MWAA’s own estimates show a $330 million difference between the cost of the aerial station and the underground station," Bulova said. "The difference for rail users traveling to the airport would be a 250-foot walk without a moving sidewalk. Additionally, a large portion of the riders expected to use the Metro station are employees of businesses adjacent to the North Garage, meaning an underground alignment is less convenient for the majority of rail users.

Chairman Bulova joins her counterpart in Loudoun County as well as Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton in voicing opposition to an increase in costs of Phase II based on station alignment. Chairman Bulova sent a letter in February to MWAA Chairman Charles Snelling expressing her concerns.

The dissenting MWAA votes were cast by former Virginia congressman Thomas M. Davis III, Michael L. O’Reilly, Frank M. Conner III and William W. Cobey Jr.

MWAA said on Wednesday that the station location offers a more cost-effective version of the 2005 original planned underground station at the airport.

MWAA representatives said money will be saved by  the tunnel re-design, but also by using a different construction method for excavation; providing air conditioning from an existing airport facility; and moving the required electrical substation above ground.

Prior to selection of the newly designed underground station option, the cost of Phase 2 was approximately $3.83 billion, which included the 2005 original planned tunnel and underground station design at Dulles.

This estimate was shared with the project partners in September of last year. The Board of Directors then directed staff to conduct further engineering studies to consider alternative alignments and station locations for the Dulles Airport Metrorail Station in an effort to reduce the overall cost of Phase 2.

A study of two final alternative locations for the station was conducted looking at engineering, construction, operational and funding considerations. The group then considered a modified design version of the original underground station and an aerial station in front of Parking Garage 1 across from the Main Terminal.

“This has been a very difficult decision for the Board as we tried to balance cost considerations with the goal to design an airport station that will serve the region’s travelers and airport employees well into the future," said MWAA  Dulles Corridor Committee Chair Mame Reiley. "We think this option best achieves that goal.” 

Next steps will be to move forward in completing additional engineering work and the federal and local approval processes.

Phase 1 of the Dulles Metrorail Project, with a cost of $2.7 billion, is well underway. There was a at the Reston-Wiehle Avenue station, which will be the end of the line for Phase I. Phase 1 has over 30 percent of its construction completed and is scheduled to be completed in 2013.

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