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Posted at 3:12 PM ET, 02/15/2011

Lawmakers request Dulles rail audits

By Kafia A. Hosh
Kafia Hosh

Republican Congressmen Frank Wolf and Tom Latham on Tuesday requested an annual audit of the Metrorail extension to Loudoun County as a way to prevent cost overruns and ensure the project is completed on schedule.

In a letter to Calvin Scovel, inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Latham (Iowa) and Wolf (Va.) asked for an annual audit of both the first and second phases of the project.

"We want to ensure that Dulles Rail is done well, done on time, and done on or under original cost estimates," the congressmen wrote. "It is imperative that all project decisions are made with the primary focus on keeping overall costs at a minimum."

Latham is the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation.

The first phase, which is costing $2.75 billion, is building five stations from Tysons Corner to Wiehle Avenue in Reston, connecting with the existing Metrorail system at East Falls Church.

The second phase would run from Wiehle Avenue to Ashburn in eastern Loudoun. Early estimates indicated that the first and second phases would have about the same cost. But in September, new estimates showed that the price tag for the second phase could be almost $4 billion. Bids for the project will begin next month.

In December, Wolf asked the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is managing the rail project, to employ an outside auditor for the project.

Latham and Wolf asked Scovel to provide an annual audit report to Congress, Virginia and Fairfax and Loudoun counties no later than each December until the project is complete. Phase 1 is scheduled to be completed in 2013. Phase 2 is slated to open in 2016.

Here is the text of the letter:

Mr. Calvin Scovel
Inspector General
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave SE 7th Fl
Washington, D.C. 20590

Dear Mr. Scovel:
We write you today to request that your office perform an annual audit of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Extension project. The audit should include Phase 1, for which an initial report was released in 2007, and Phase 2, for which bids are scheduled to be let in March. As members of the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, we have a responsibility to ensure that projects receiving federal assistance are completed in the most cost effective way and believe that your office is in a position to bring additional transparency and accountability to Dulles Rail.
We want to ensure that Dulles Rail is done well, done on time, and done on or under original cost estimates. It is imperative that all project decisions are made with the primary focus on keeping overall costs at a minimum. We ask that your office provide reports to Congress, the Commonwealth of Virginia and Fairfax and Loudoun counties no later than December of each year until Phase 2 is completed and transferred to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
We appreciate your assistance and look forward to working with your office.

Best wishes.

Sincerely,
Frank Wolf Tom Latham
Member of Congress Member of Congress

By Kafia A. Hosh  | February 15, 2011; 3:12 PM ET
Categories:  Airports, Commuter Rail, Northern Virginia, Silver Line, Transportation Politics, Virginia  
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Comments

THIS IS A GOOD FIRST STEP BUT IS THIS REALLY GOING TO HAPPEN AND IS THIS GOING TO KEEP COST UNDER OR NEAR BUDGET OR IS THIS GOING TO ADD TO THE COST OF THE OVERALL BUDGET...BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO PAY FOR THE AUDITS, THATS NOT GOING TO BE FREE

Posted by: JeroRobson1 | February 16, 2011 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Please, please, please cancel this boondoggle. Have some of these officials spend some time on the Orange Line. Metro cannot handle more service or more passengers.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | February 16, 2011 10:35 AM | Report abuse

This proposed extension is wildly expensive ($4 BILLION and counting). It will add to Metro's annual operating deficit, and to long-term rehabilitation costs.

It will further increase the crowding on Metrorail, which is already severe, esp. in the urban core areas. (And of course, Metro CANNOT run express trains, due to the short-sighted 2-track system design.)

It would be MUCH cheaper (and would serve MORE people) to develop express bus service, rather than continuing to pour billions into high-cost problem-plagued rail.

Posted by: jrmil | February 16, 2011 11:00 AM | Report abuse

The Washington Flyer and Metro 5A will get you to Dulles, and Fairfax Connector does a great job getting folks from Reston to WFC. The train extension is too costly a project. I can't even imagine what the fare will be since Metro charges by distance travelled. Will the Connector be removed once the train is up and running?

Posted by: jckdoors | February 16, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

While it is a good idea on paper, the Silver Line doesn't make much sense as an airport rail link - it simply will have too many stops.

As it currently is, the Silver Line is a commuter line that stops at the airport. The smart thing to do would have been to build the line with an express train to the airport and local trains that en route for commuters.


But, nooooo!

Posted by: ceefer66 | February 16, 2011 1:52 PM | Report abuse

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