Saturday, January 26, 2008

Dulles Rail Project in Jeopardy

The federal government has told Virginia officials that without major changes to the proposal, the Metro extension to Dulles International Airport will not be funded.

Without the 900 million in federal money the project is all but dead. In a meeting yesterday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and Federal Transit Administration chief James S. Simpson told VA officials that without changes there would be no money.

Simpson said the FTA would allow Kaine and the congressional delegation to have a chance to respond to his concerns before making a final decision on funding.

However, Simpson said that the project faces "an extraordinarily large set of challenges", and the likelihood that Virginia could overcome these challenges is not good.

Virginia Transportation Secretary Pierce R. Homer, who attended yesterday's meeting said, "Many of the issues that were raised today were heard for the first time by the congressional delegation, the governor and the project team, and that is disappointing."

The news came as a shock to many, for the last 40 years Virginia leaders have expressed the need for a rail connection between the nation's capital and its major international airport since the 1960s.

The Tyson’s corridor has been a strong engine for Virginia’s job growth and the metro extension is considered critical to the long term health of the old dominion’s economy.

While Virginia political leaders expressed disappointment about the possible collapse of the metro extension, some who are advocating an underground tunnel expressed hope that the tunnel idea can be revived.

"This is an opportunity for us to make the best of this and see if we can't get the project corrected," said Scott Monett of "We can still move Dulles rail forward -- with a tunnel."

However, another group mostly led by landowners and developers, who hope to re- develop Tyson’s Corner, expressed disappointment about the latest developments. Jonathan Cherner, a co-owner of Cherner Automotive Group in Tyson’s Corner told the Washington Post, "Boy, have our public officials let you, me and the entire region down,"

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