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Fairfax Board Will Vote on Rail Line

The Fairfax County Board this afternoon decided not to delay a June 18 vote that will determine the fate of the Tysons rail project, despite concerns that it has not yet seen the contract for what will be one of the most expensive public works projects in U.S. history and one of the most important transportation programs for the future of Northern Virginia.

County government staffers, upon whom the board relies for much of its information about the project, had to sign confidentiality agreements limiting their discussions with the board members. A representative of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is in charge of the rail project that ultimately is supposed to reach Dulles Airport at a cost now estimated at $5 billion, said the the contract cannot be made public until it is complete.

He said he hoped to have copies for the board members by Friday.

Many board members expressed frustration with the lack of specifics regarding the financing and design of the project, which in its first phase will bring Metrorail through Tysons Corner and west to Wiehle Avenue. Supervisor Dana Kauffman proposed that the board delay the crucial vote scheduled for June 18 and instead use that session for a public hearing on the details of the contract.

The motion was rejected by a wide margin, although board members continued to stress that they -- and the county residents who will finance part of the project -- must be able to see what the board is voting on.

The board and an audience of several hundred, many of them supports of tunneling the line through Tysons rather than building an elevated track, first heard the county staff preview the construction program and its impact on traffic, which will be substantial. The work could become evident to commuters as early as September, when the utilities along Routes 7 and 123 are scheduled to be dug up. Then, Route 7 will be converted from three travel lanes to four, eliminating the service roads.

There's a budget of $25 million for traffic mitigation during the project, but given that 100,000 workers must reach Tysons each day, that's probably not enough.

Then the board began a question and answer session with staff and representatives of the airports authority, including MWAA general counsel Edward Fagan. The board members seemed taken aback when Fagan said the contract for the rail project, which many regard as crucial to the county's future, still is not 100 percent complete. If the board gets a look at it by the end of Friday, that will leave five business days for its members to review it before the board votes to sign off on the deal on June 18.

By Robert Thomson  |  June 4, 2007; 3:24 PM ET
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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