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Major cost overrun concerns for Dulles Rail

Wednesday - 10/19/2011, 3:15pm  ET

Adam Tuss,

WASHINGTON - The first phase of the Dulles Rail Project could go over budget by as much as $150 million.

During a meeting of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board Wednesday, the executive director of the project, Pat Nowakowski, told board members there are going to be a lot of challenges keeping the project on budget.

"To be on budget we need some mitigation efforts that we have identified to come true. If they are unable to come true, then we will have a very difficult time meeting budget," Nowakowski told reporters after the meeting.

He would not go into details about what those mitigation efforts are, only saying project leaders are trying to recoup money from different places and trying to reduce the scope of the project. He called the $150 million cost overrun figure a "speculative guess."

MWAA Board member Tom Davis pushed Nowakowski during a presentation to give an "honest assessment" about the cost of the project.

"We are not trying to hide anything," Davis said.

Nowakowski said some of the cost issues will require meeting directly with Metro General Manager Richard Sarles.

"In my presentation, I gave a forecast number of where the project will finish, which was $9 million under the total project budget. That is much closer than it has been in some of my earlier reports," Nowakowski said. "I have narrowed the gap between where we are forecast to finish, and where we are ending."

Cutting it as close as $9 million includes using up all of a contingency fund that started out with more than $312 million.

The first phase of the Dulles Rail Project -- the segment that will run from Falls Church, through Tysons Corner and ends at Reston -- is estimated to cost $2.8 billion.

If the first phase of the project goes over budget, the partners involved in the funding agreement for it -- namely Fairfax and Loudoun counties and the Airports Authority -- would have to pick up the tab.

While all of this new turmoil is surfacing for the first phase of the project, there is still no funding agreement for the second phase of the project -- the segment that will run from Reston, to Dulles International Airport, and continue into Loudoun County.

MWAA President Jack Potter was vague when asked to give a time frame for when that funding agreement would be reached.

"In the coming weeks and months," he said.

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