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Board Still Backs Tunnel

The Board of Supervisors repeated its preference that the new Metro line through Tysons Corner take the form of a tunnel.

During Monday’s Board meeting, Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence) said the board was responding to comments made by Gov. Tim Kaine (D) last week that he would act more strongly to push for a tunnel if that’s what the board wants.

Smyth said this would be the third time the board made this position known, the last time was in January. Then, the board had stated its position supporting a tunnel through Tysons Corner, so long as pursuing the tunnel does not jeopardize the project as a whole.

The first phase of the rail line is proposed to stretch about 11 miles from the existing West Falls Church station to Wiehle Avenue in Reston, with four stops in Tysons Corner. For most of the four miles through Tysons, current plan calls for the line to be elevated 40-50 feet above the ground.

Its alignment had been thought to have been settled; until a Spanish firm, Dragados, presented new technology which it said could build a tunnel much more cheaply than had been thought. Last summer, a study conducted under the auspices of the American Society of Civil Engineers concluded that the tunnel, while more expensive, would be superior.

Kaine had been on the verge of calling for construction of a tunnel. But federal officials, including congressmen Frank Wolf and Tom Davis showed him that because of a federal cost-effectiveness standard, the switch to a tunnel could risk $900 million in federal funding.

The board and other groups have continued to push for a tunnel, saying that it will make it easier to transform Tysons Corner into a true urban area, will have lower long-term costs and will be less disruptive during construction.

The board reaffirmed that position, along with a list of concerns about the way the rail project is moving forward.

Smyth said that the board is concerned that Fairfax County, which is a funding partner in the project, had not been a party to negotiations about the way the project will be developed.

Under the current funding formula, Fairfax County businesses along the rail route are paying about $400 million through a special property tax. Additionally, Northern Virginia citizens are also paying about 37 percent of the costs through the tolls they pay on the Dulles Toll Road.

Smyth said the board is concerned that critical funding documents have not been made available. She restated the board’s position, that the project overall should be competitively bid and have a more open review.

“At this point, what we are most concerned about is the process,” Smyth said. “We don’t want to be writing a check without really having the opportunity to look over the bill first.”