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MWAA Promotes Dulles Rail Proposal

With authority taking the reigns, Metrorail could be five years away.

The project to bring Metrorail to Tyson’s Corner, Reston, Dulles Airport and on to Loudoun County could be sped up by five years if the state allows the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to take control of the Dulles Toll Road and the construction of the Metrorail project, said Jonathan Gaffney, MWAA’s vice president for communications.

Current projections bring rail from West Falls Church Station to Loudoun County by 2015.

Gaffney spoke to Reston’s Planning and Zoning Committee March 6 as part of an outreach effort to increase awareness about MWAA’s proposal to take over the toll road and finance and build the Dulles Metrorail project.

MWAA, THE AUTHORITY that controls Dulles International Airport and owns the land on which the toll road is built, submitted its proposal to the state last December to ensure that the rail project moves forward. Calling rail to Dulles “vital” to the success of the airport, MWAA submitted its proposal because it was concerned that phase two, which brings rail to the airport, could be indefinitely delayed or abandoned if funding doesn’t come through.

If accepted, MWAA’s proposal would end efforts to privatize the toll road, which is one of the most heavily used commuter routes in the region.

After his short presentation, members of the planning and zoning committee and local residents had a chance to ask questions, some of which focused on concerns about toll increases and federal funding.

Gaffney said tolls would increase to keep pace with inflation and pay off revenue bonds used to finance the Metrorail project. Tolls now range from 50 to 75 cents.

“THE AVERAGE TOLL people pay today is 61 cents. Our proposal says that average 50 years from now would be $2.20,” said Gaffney. “That’s basically what you pay today accounting for inflation.”

Richard Stillson of Reston asked about specific tolls. For instance, Stillson asked what would it cost for a commuter traveling from Reston to Washington, D.C. A one-way trip now costs $1.25. But Gaffney didn’t know. He could only comment on the “average toll” people pay now compared to what they’ll pay 50 years from now.

Joe Stowers, a long-time resident, voiced another concern. He asked if the Metrorail would be sacrificing federal funding if MWAA took over the rail project. “It appears the authority is not going to go after that money as aggressively,” said Stowers.

Gaffney assured the audience that MWAA would aggressively seek federal funding. But in the proposal, MWAA did not account for it because it’s an uncertainty, said Gaffney. “If that money is available of course we will take it. We’re not forgoing it,” he said.

Gaffney noted that the entire congressional delegation in the region supports MWAA’s proposal.