Radical change proposed for Dulles Rail Project, would scrap station

Adam Tuss, wtop.com

WASHINGTON — A boardmember of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is proposing a radical change in the Dulles Rail project, saying the Dulles International Airport station should be scrapped altogether.

Boardmember Robert Clarke Brown made the suggestion during a MWAA meeting Wednesday, suggesting that the nearby Route 28 station should instead become the Airport station, and the Route 28 station should be outfitted with a “people mover” system that would ferry riders to and from the airport.

“In my view, this would actually be superior transportation service for our passengers [compared to what is currently planned], because the people mover would take them to the terminal,” says Brown.

Under the current proposal for a Metro station at Dulles Airport, riders would get off the train on an elevated platform near the north airport garage, which is on the opposite side of the large parking bowl in front of the main terminal. Riders will then have to take an elevator down to an underground area beneath the parking bowl and take moving walkways to the terminal.

“The cost savings that we could have because of the alignment change could be substantial,” says Brown.

When asked how much could be saved, the head of the Dulles Rail project, Pat Nowakowski, told the board this option could save around $70 million.

Boardmembers, however, were immediately skeptical of the plan.

“This is a creative idea, but it is not rail to Dulles,” says Mame Reiley, the previous chair of MWAA’s Dulles Corridor Committee. “This is not what we have labored for.”

MWAA head John Potter told boardmembers that the other parties involved in the project — WMATA, Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, and the Commonwealth of Virginia — expressed concerns about the plan.

After being met with skepticism, Brown said he was not asking anyone to approve the plan, just consider it.

“Here is one single idea [that could save a lot of money], and this board is unwilling to have staff look at that? I find that remarkable,” says Brown.

Aside from not actually getting a Metro station at Dulles International Airport, boardmembers also expressed concerns that such a move would be seen as “starting over,” and that there could be serious delays because of the change.

The inflating cost of the second phase of the Dulles Rail Project has been an ongoing controversy. It has reached such a point that the head of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Ray LaHood, called all the parties involved to his office to work out an understanding on cost.

Right now, the expected price tag of Phase 2 — the section that will run from Reston to the Airport and continue into Loudoun County — is $2.8 billion.

Leaders are trying to keep the price tag low, because the higher the price, the higher tolls will have to go up on the Dulles Toll Road. About 75 percent of the financing for the second phase of the project is coming from Dulles Toll Road revenue.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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