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Feds Slam Dulles Rail Project

Federal Transit Administrator James Simpson said this afternoon that his agency has serious questions about whether the Washington airports authority can build the rail line to Dulles and whether Metro can operate it. [See Amy Gardner's story in Friday's Post.]

tysons east (2).jpg Rendering of proposed Tysons East station. (Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project photo)

This morning, the FTA presented its concerns to Gov. Timothy Kaine, congressmen from Virginia, the airports authority and Metro.

If they heard the same things Simpson just said in his press conference, they should be devastated about the future of this project, which has become a crucial part of the planning for the future of Northern Virginia.

Simpson left no doubt during the press conference that the rail plan faces a string of uncertainties as far as the FTA is concerned, and that's important because the project needs $900 million in federal funds to construct the first phase, which would take the line through Tysons Corner and out to Reston.

First and foremost, he said, there are tough statutory requirements for cost effectiveness, the ability of a new rail line to move people efficiently. "The project thus far has not been able to meet that requirement," Simpson said. FTA is not satisfied that cost cuts made late last year by the project's managers have done the job.

But the list of concerns goes on:

The FTA is concerned about whether the Washington airports authority, which now is in charge of constructing the line, can actually build a railroad. It's a great organization, the FTA says, but its experience is with runways and terminals, not heavy rail lines.

"We've got a lot of concern about that," Simpson said.

After the airports authority built the railroad, another agency, Metro, would have to take it over and run it. That adds to the overall cost of the project, says FTA.

But can Metro actually run it? One of the federal funding tests, Simpson said, is whether the new system can be kept in a state of good repair. Metro has no major, consistent source of funding for investments, Simpson noted. (It has to go periodically to the local governments and ask for more money.) The rail line to Dulles would represent a 20 percent in crease in the size of the Metrorail operation, according to FTA.

The agency has a "real concern" about a gap of billions of dollars between what Metro has in the pipeline and what it would cost to maintain the Dulles line in a state of good repair.

"As of today," Simpson said, "the project does not meet requirements necessary to advance it."

Today, it's unclear whether those concerns can be adequately addressed, but it's real clear that this is a serious setback.

By Robert Thomson  |  January 24, 2008; 3:46 PM ET
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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Boy this is giving me a headache. We've spent a ton of money on studies already, so lets stop the project, spend more money on studies. Then let the cost of the project escalate as material get more expensive, ect. This may make the big dig look like a well run project.

Posted by: Jamming | January 24, 2008 4:10 PM | Report abuse

It's a RAIL LINE. I'm amazed this is so difficult! A rail line to the main airport of a world capital. Why is this even a question?

Posted by: Aaron | January 24, 2008 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Good good good good good. For one of the first times in recent history, the federal government is not bending to outside special interest influence and political short-term goals.

Bob, how can you continue to support this project? The FTA objectively is very strongly showing a lack of support - which should be obvious to even the biggest proponent of mass transit.

The Tysons diversion has caused this plan to jump the rail (nothing to say for the Bechtel handout, MWAA lack of experience, and lack of Metro involvement or planning for maintenance).

Posted by: Steven | January 24, 2008 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Sadly this is the right decision. Don't get me wrong, there should be some sort of mass transit link to the airport, but the metro line is the wrong choice. I'd take it over nothing. But, given the per mile maintenance cost that would be added to an already under funded system it's the wrong choice. Also given that the areas of higher density closer in sorely need more heavy rail before they break under the pressure from over use and under maintenance.

I don't often agree with government agencies such as the FTA/DOT, but this time he's sadly right.

Posted by: liam | January 24, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

"It's a RAIL LINE. I'm amazed this is so difficult! A rail line to the main airport of a world capital. Why is this even a question?"

Think about who's in charge, what their priorities are, and their methods of accomplishing goals.

VRE from Dulles to Union Station would be better anyway.

Posted by: Steve | January 24, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Last year they said if you cut $300 million or whatever it was from the budget the project would be OK. VA did that. Now they seem to need to come up with a different reason to kill it. Whatever they do could they at least make a freakin decision instead of gameplaying? Approve it NOW, or kill it NOW, but make up your minds already! Why did you bother to tell VA to cut money from the budget if you were going to kill it anyway? Would have saved an awful lot of trouble if they would have just killed it then.

I thought it was FTA's job to get rail and bus facilities built? FHWA has no problem dishing out tons of money to all the states to get hundreds of miles roads built, I don't get why FTA is being so stingy about a 20 mile rail line? That cost represents what, a day or two worth of spending in Iraq?

Posted by: Woodley Park | January 24, 2008 4:33 PM | Report abuse

This is a project that is long overdue and absolutely necessary, but not in the present form. Let's take the current plan off the table, re-design it to include a tunnel through Tyson's Corner, find a long-term funding source for Metro and then send the project out for competitive bidding to bring the costs down. It may take a few more years to get the funding, but for an asset that will be around for a hundred years, the extra planning will be well worth it.

Posted by: Richard Holmquist | January 24, 2008 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Horrible, Horrible, Horrible. This is further inaction by a do nothing government that is going to keep pass real problems on for generations and generations. I would be happy for short term goals as opposed to having no goals or any real solutions.

Steven you must not live or work anywhere near Tysons. The airport is one of the major econonmic drivers for Northern VA, which produces over 80% of the economic output of the state of VA. If you allow the Northern VA area to bog down in traffic you allow the Airport and the states economy to become bogged down as well.

Metro was involved in the planning, and as for lack of experience of MWAA. Please ! It is the main airport for our nations Capitol. It is comical that there is no rail to it. SHould all progress be stoped because it is new and ground breaking ? This is just horrible !

Posted by: Malcom | January 24, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

"Metro has no major, consistent source of funding for investments, Simpson noted. (It has to go periodically to the local governments and ask for more money.)" the Bush administration refuses to provide any federal funding to help run Metro, and then they say that the lack of a dedicated funding source is a reason to cancel Metro's expansion.

How convenient.

Posted by: thefrog5 | January 24, 2008 4:55 PM | Report abuse

This is the best news regarding the project in a long time.

Rail is a complete waste of money. There will not be enough riders to justify even a quarter of the cost.

I-66 should be 8 lanes inside the Beltway and the Dulles Access road should be expanded to 8 lanes.

Posted by: Opposed_2_Dulles_Rail | January 24, 2008 4:56 PM | Report abuse

A sad decision. I'm under the impression that the FTA should love projects such as this one. Its mostly funded by the state and the constituent counties! Its a mass transit project. The interstate highway system wasn't perfect when built and neither was Metro. All tranist systems will need tweaking and upgrade.

What a shame that this project is being put on the shelf after apparently meeting all of the Fed's requirements.

Posted by: Tim | January 24, 2008 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Wow, I learned more from his statements than I have in the years of news articles I've read about this.

I wish it were true that they were just stonewalling based on some fuzzy "metric." But Simpson raises some good points I never considered.

Should we still get a rail line? Yes. But after reading these statements, I think we need to get metro dedicated funding for this line before moving forward.

Hello, may I speak with Gov Kaine, please?

Posted by: Arrrlington | January 24, 2008 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Malcom, as a matter of fact, I officed in Tysons for 9 years and in the past 6 months moved to a building in Reston Town Center. It took me more than an hour to go 100 yards many, many times - and not just christmas season - when I could see the beltway actually moving (5-10 MPH but that's more than I could do), just couldn't get to it. Rail through Tysons will not help - go there one day and try to go down Route 7 during afternoon rush hour. Better yet, throw in some rain, an accident 10 miles away on 66, or a shift in the wind. You will see that this rail proposal will just muck it up further. On top of that, Fairfax County has already approved (and construction has started on) plans for an additional 30,000 people to work in Tysons - plus residences, which of course not every single person would walk everywhere or take public transportation.

Getting to IAD is relatively easy with the access road - the routings that are difficult to get to IAD would not be helped by this rail project.

If MWAA was serious about getting rail to IAD, they would just put a high speed train in from East Falls Church with 4 stops - Tysons, Reston, Herndon Park and Ride, and IAD (maybe loop to the Udvar-Hazy space center as well). That would operate totally within their right-of-way, achieve their purpose of getting passengers to IAD, and be less likely to clog up the Orange line.

Posted by: Steven | January 24, 2008 5:23 PM | Report abuse

The $5+ billion boondoggle just might be dead.

Posted by: GMU92 | January 24, 2008 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Also, Malcom, you refer to short-term goals being OK but all that has been done in DC area is short term. That is why we have the 2nd worst congestion in the US. Look at all the dead-end roads, spastic development, and convoluted commutes people are forced to take.

What is needed is a good long-term plan and for it to be implemented so in 10 years someone isn't sitting here saying "see, it worked for a few months but now this is worse than ever".

Posted by: Steven | January 24, 2008 5:29 PM | Report abuse

"This is the best news regarding the project in a long time. Rail is a complete waste of money. There will not be enough riders to justify even a quarter of the cost. I-66 should be 8 lanes inside the Beltway and the Dulles Access road should be expanded to 8 lanes."

I am sorry, but this is a moronic idea. Just because you expand the number of lanes doesn't mean you solve the transportation issue. All you do is funnel even more cars into roads not designed to handle the traffic. The Washington area NEEDS to expand its public transportation options now before we all die from carbon monoxide poisoning while stuck in traffic.

Posted by: blbower | January 24, 2008 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Cannot build and maintain a rail line to an air port?

What are we?

A failed state?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2008 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Spending billions of dollars on road improvements and rail is one way to approach the traffic congestion problem.
Maybe an alternative to all this congestion would be for the federal government and the contractors tied to the federal government going to a staggered work day. The first shift workers report at 8:00 AM, the second shift reports at 11-12. Just an idea to kick around.

Posted by: blbower | January 24, 2008 5:39 PM | Report abuse

You could also just have a bus only lane on the Toll Road that departs from West Falls Church. You could have different routes and some of the buses could be Express to the Airport. It would be much quicker than the 10 stops on the Silver Line.

Posted by: re Steven | January 24, 2008 5:49 PM | Report abuse

"I-66 should be 8 lanes inside the Beltway and the Dulles Access road should be expanded to 8 lanes."

That makes sense -- let's just pave our way out of this mess... Nevermind the effects to the environment, not to mention all of the folks in Falls Church and Arlington that have vehemently opposed this option for 30 years now.

Posted by: Libby | January 24, 2008 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Hooray. At last the feds stand up to powerful local interests and tell the truth: this Metro extension is poorly planned, underfunded, and won't do what its promoters say it will. Maybe this will force Metro to come up first with a plan to make the current system cost-effective before planning ambitious and very costly extensions that aren't needed.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2008 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Maybe we should all take a long hard look at the consultant study the feds relied on for this decision. I think there may be some discrepancies. The influence regarding this project does not just come in support of it, there's plenty of money either against it, or angling for their own profit-seeking stake in it.

Posted by: Baffled | January 24, 2008 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Since I live in PW County, and take I-66 to the Beltway to RT 7 to my office off of Greensboro Drive/Springhill, and so do not benefit from any rail extension to Reston and eventually IAD, I for one am glad that this elevated line boondoggle appears to be off. Not being a tunnel thru Tysons is a stupid idea, and the traffic mess that would occur from above-ground construction of an elevated line for a few years or so, is not something i was looking fwd to. My commute is already a nightmare, and an above-ground construction site was going to make it even worse. Maybe now someone will figure out a dedicated source of funding, sufficient to pay for a tunnel system thru Tysons on the way to IAD. Maybe not...

Posted by: Nick | January 24, 2008 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Gee, Nick... I am sure you'd be an advocate of rail to Haymarket. You got extra lanes on I-66 to ease your commute. Be selfless to those of us who don't see a benefit in that expensive project.

Posted by: Libby | January 24, 2008 6:10 PM | Report abuse

I have one long-term solution to this region's traffic woes: Work at home, people! Driving 35 miles to sit in front of a computer, then turning around and driving home, what a waste. In the meantime: Build this thing. All the way to Loudoun County, as per the plan. Those of us out here, however, are not holding our breath.

Posted by: Craig Colgan | January 24, 2008 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Steven, I currently work in Tyson's, so I know all about it's traffic woes. Metro is not the Silver bullet, it is merly part of the solution. A solution that needs a number of factors that are dependant upon each other in order to work. At the heart of the problem is Tyson's was not planned for this amount of use. Route 7 was a cattle route that farmers used to move their herds, and now it serves as the major artery to one of the largest office corridors in the country. There is more office SF in Tysons then all of Baltimore. yet look at the infrastructure serving Tyson's ? So improving infrastructure is key. Land use is also a major component. There is simply not enough housing to support the amount of workers in Tyson's. You have to live somewhere else and drive into you work which means lots and lots of traffic. So in addition to infrastrusture you create better land use, ie instead of having islands of retail and office seperated by endless car sales lots forcing people into cars ie. more traffic. Metro above or below was a key component, but definetly not the single answer. Better zoning and higher density are also key.

Posted by: Malcom | January 24, 2008 6:26 PM | Report abuse

isn't FTA responsible for roads and rail? last i saw it spends 40 to 1 on roads vs rail.

sure, the long-term issues re: upkeep are still there, but if the imbalance weren't so strong, then they might have less reservations.

Posted by: elvis | January 24, 2008 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Built it and they will come....ever been to NY and took the Long Island Railroad or metro in Manhattan...way more efficient than the idiots running the metro here...

Posted by: rail | January 24, 2008 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Nick you do benefit from rail on the Dulles Cooridor. If Tyson's becomes grid locked from traffic woes and and chocked from mismanagement of growth, what do you think happens to the jobs ? ie your job ? Employers do not renew leases, and relocate to places that are desireable. Places where their employees can live close to the work and do not have to sit in endless traffic. Places where clients can fly in from all over the globe and make it into their lobby with relative ease. Their airport is a major artery to this job market. Reston, Tyson's, Arlington are all served by it. If you simply let traffic clog the corridor, well you can't fly on a plane you can't get to!

Posted by: Malcom | January 24, 2008 6:37 PM | Report abuse

I live in Reston and believe me I want this more than anyone else, but I must agree with the Feds on this one. This project is so piece meal its ridiculous. Secret meetings, non-reputable contractors, tremendous expense. Its seems like every other transportation project in Virginia, underbuilt and over funded. If it is done I want it done correctly. Tysons should have the tunnel option even if that means eliminating some stations (I think four is excessive anyway) then so be it. WMATA should have oversight of the project. Having an airport authority build a rail line makes no sense indeed when WMATA will be running it once it is finished. I agree that the Feds shouldn't have dangled the carrot in front of the horse, but this is a bad project no question and should not be built without major changes.

Posted by: Sivad | January 24, 2008 6:43 PM | Report abuse

i agree with the FTA on this. its been underfunded and a waste of resources

Posted by: dc person | January 24, 2008 6:46 PM | Report abuse

While reducing emissions and impact on the environment are undebatably good, there is no evidence that rail to Dulles would achieve that. On the contrary, the increased development that zoning laws would have permitted would have added an estimated 600,000 cars to the road, while the rail would have taken fewer than 1/20th of that number off the road, even if we adopt the wildest estimates for the rail line. And the elevated architecture would have turned the key business neighborhood into an unsightly concrete slum. I am heartened that the federal government made an analytical decision that appears not to have been influenced by the powerful real estate development lobbies and construction firms that have pushed so mightily for this white elephant.

Posted by: Spring Hill | January 24, 2008 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Sivad Why would Dulles Airport Authority let WAMATA have over sight on a project that is being built on their land ? It makes perfect sense for WMATA to manage the Rail, that is what they do. The Airport Authority builds projects like this all the time, have you seen the expansion to the Dulles Airport lately ? Also the Airport Authority is one of the Major funders for this project, along with the state, and whatwe had hoped would be the Fed. So are we to believe that we are going to ask the Airport Authority to give their land and thier money to build a project that they will have no control over ? I can't think of anyone who would do that.

Posted by: Malcom | January 24, 2008 6:55 PM | Report abuse

by the time this is built, we'll all be working from home, probably wirelessly.

The only metro upgrade that makes any sense is the Alexandria Potomac Yards Station.

That could be built for pennies compared to the cost of dollars for the Dulles line.

Alexandria - Potomac Yards Metro - Do it.

Posted by: tchtic | January 24, 2008 6:57 PM | Report abuse

We don't need no stinkin rail line. Metro is for poor people.

Posted by: kmccorma | January 24, 2008 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Spring Hill, you must really love the beautiful sight of cars then. Big parking lots with rolling lot's of cars surrounded by cars on congested roads trying to drive past the huge parking lots to get to their homes 10 miles away. Sounds like nirvana ! Classic NIMBY. So let me guess Spring Hill, you don't want anything else built so you can keep your asphalt unwalkable jungle free from these evil developers and contractors. So your answers is to build it somewhere else ... I know let's build it in Loudon or Prince William Co. So that way we can make people drive even farther away. Yeah that is the answer build it over there so people will have to drive over there. That will solve traffic and keep my existing office buildings like islands in a sea of perking lots nice and pretty ! That is excellent use of land a stones throw from the nations capitol. That green farm land out in Loudoun is just empty wast of space until we fill it with more cars and some strip malls and more Parking lots !

Posted by: Malcom | January 24, 2008 7:04 PM | Report abuse

I hate to sound like some loon, but I'm going to anyway. Here goes...

So, we can spend $9 Billion a month in Iraq without a problem, but we can't find any money to build the rail through Tysons?

I hate to be that cynical about it, but I'm trying to prove a point. It may sound nuts to invoke the War, but from a purely fiscal standpoint, it makes sense. There's plenty of motivation to send money overseas. But spend it here? No, that makes the Federal Government all uptight.

It's hypocritical for the Federal Gov't to treat the Tysons project as The Alamo in regards to federal spending when we're throwing money down that black hole in the Middle East. We might as well just burn the money on the front lawn of The Capitol. You'd get the same return.

Building more lanes on I-66, which I take regularly, will simply compound the problem, not solve it. The idea is to move *people*, not cars. So the idea that bigger roads will fix this is ridiculous.

If you design and build an effective rail system, you will alleviate some of congestion problems in not only Tysons, but Loundon and PW counties as well. (Provided, however, that it's part of some comprehensive plan.)

This hesitation by the FTA is yet another case of ideology trumping practicality. They want to be fiscally prudent, but I think they're hypocrites.

If the Federal Government were serious about helping ease traffic in the Metro area, they'd help us. But they're not, so they wont.

Posted by: Blackaces | January 24, 2008 7:06 PM | Report abuse

This is just more of the "rail is a silver bullet" and "rail makes roads unnessesary" meantality that's given the DC region the nation's second-worse traffic congestion.

Planners and transit advoates in this region are OBSESSED woth rail. Even Dr, G ignores the study findings that prove Dulles rail will be ineffective against congestion, and jumps on the bandwagon.

Thiry-five years of rail-only has put us in a congestion MESS. When will we FINALLY learn that doing the same actions and expecting different results is INSANITY?

Thiry-five years of "cancel the highways. We don't need them. All we need to do is 'study the alternatives', expand Metro and get people out of their cars". Has that worked? I think not.

And while we're talking about "getting people out of their cars", does ANYONE out there REALLY think that enough people will be able to afford to live in the expensive new "transit oriented development" in Tyson's and "walk, bike or use transit" to have a significant impact on traffic congestion in and around Tysons? Dream on.

I can see an extension of the Orange Line from West Falls Church into Tysons. But to build this boondoggle to Dulles and continue to kowtow to special interests and cancel planned highways and allow NIMBY's to block road expansions will only make traffic worse.

Posted by: ceefer66 | January 24, 2008 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Tchtc, A Metro Stop at Potomac Yard would be great, and they looked into extensively. Only problem is that section of track is on a curve and slope which made it unfeasible to build on with out shuting down both the yellow and blue lines for an extensive period at a huge cost. There response was to get a commitmented bus lane and bus line paid for by the developers with 10 min service between Potomac Yard and the Metro. Works but a stop would have been nice.

Posted by: Malcom | January 24, 2008 7:21 PM | Report abuse

This project is a boondoggle. Toll lanes are the answer...not the stupid hot lanes but lanes with a fair all the time toll. Also widening I-66 inside the beltway despite the Arlington Falls Church NIMBYS. Also, someone might look to improvement in south fairfax and eastern prince william will all the BRAC relocations. Why does western fairfax get all the money?

Posted by: Jerry | January 24, 2008 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Ceefer, So what do you propose ? Over the last 35 years they have built those Hi-ways and that most diffinetly hasn't worked. Just look at the Dulles Toll Road built in 1984, that worked didn't it ? Or how about the current expansion of 66 which has been going on for years. Has that helped ? In those instances where we overcame the special interest and NIMBY's did we solve anything ? No we just added another lane of traffic. Imagine taking away all those dumb alternatives you speak of. Can you imagine adding 700,000 Cars to the Road tomorrow ? That is not a drop in the bucket. Now imagine if you also took away all that stupid TOD development like Reston. Yeah instead of a nice town center where people can walk around lets make strip malls spread all over and see what that does too.

Posted by: Malcom | January 24, 2008 7:39 PM | Report abuse

I want NoVa residents living in the vicinity (~ 3 miles) of each of the proposed Tysons and Reston Metro stations to explain how the proposed Metro line will benefit them?

Would you drive your car to a station, where there would be hardly any parking, leave it there for 5 days, fly from and back to Dulles, and then drive home?

Would Reston residents really take Metro to Tysons?

How would Springfield residents get to Tysons via the proposed rail line without riding through Alexandria and Arlington?

Would Arlington residents really take Metro to Tysons? To work? To shop?

Do DC Residents really need to get to Tysons?

Are Rockville Residents really expected to take the Red Line to Metro Center and then transfer to the Silver Line?

Do we really need to spend $5 billion to shuttle people back and forth from Dulles Airport?

The Dulles Access road works just fine for this. Throw a bus rapid transit lane on 66 and on the access and you're done for 1/8 of the cost.

Posted by: Opposed_2_Dulles_Rail | January 24, 2008 7:45 PM | Report abuse

kmccorma is an idiot.

Posted by: ashburn2 | January 24, 2008 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Opposed 2, so you don't think people will ride metro, but you do think they will ride a Bus ? And Yes I live 3 miles from the Reston station and work in Tyson's if I could take 20 min rail ride to Tyson's then walk 5 or 10 min to works and save myself the stress of dealing with 40-60 min of traffic on convoluted roads in Tyson's, I would deffinetly ride it. And on those occasions when work requires I travle to DC, so much the better. Dulles currently serves 1,800 - 2,000 flights a day. Let's just pretend most of those are connections and less than half actually are traveling to and from DC. do you think reducing a potential 700-900 trips daily is a small thing ? Especially when you couple that with the reduction of people who work in DC but live along the Dulles Corridor ? Will everyone ride the line ? No, but when you take a few DC Commuters and a few Airline passengers, and few Reston to Tyson's commuters and few Arlington to Tyson's workers all off the road you are taking thousands of cars off the road. That is also if you only look at Metro. Now that you have Metro stop on Rte7 what happens to that land value ? It goes up. So are you going to leave a big Car sales lot right across from it ? No they will develop it. Zoning changes to allow for something more than a strip mall on the land and they can build some apartmens on the land and make better use of it. Did you know that right now Tyson's only has enough housing to support 1 out of every 10 people who work there? Think about how many people have to get in a car and srive in there to get to work. You can say, well add some more housing, but who wants to build a place in the middle of a sea of parking lots and tell residents to get out on to some clogged street? Metro Helps, but it isn't the answer, Roads Help, but it isn't the answer. Smarter Growth Hlps but it aint the answer either. All three together start getting us somewhere.

Posted by: Malcom | January 24, 2008 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Thank you FTA! You made my day. This project could achieve the same ends with different means if people would just stop and consider it instead of pushing an ill-conceived plan through.

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | January 24, 2008 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Thank you FTA! You made my day. This project could achieve the same ends with different means if people would just stop and consider it instead of pushing an ill-conceived plan through.

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | January 24, 2008 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Yes, this is a GOOD THING. Has no one been following??? There was no funding plan, beyond the federal breadcrumbs. The idea the the toll road revenues would handle this was insanity. The multi-stops in Tysons were just about paying back political pressure and contributions from developers. If you want rapid transit to Dulles, you want Bus Rapid Transit, which cost BILLIONS less and has an order of magnitude more flexibility. And I neglect to touch on the ridiculous situation regarding Metro itself, the lack of capacity, the inability to handle extra traffic in the Rosslyn tunnel, and a host of technical issues. This was stupidity, and it is a courageous group of federal specialists who spiked it. Don't tell me we don't have brave and dedicated civil servants.

Posted by: GetReal | January 24, 2008 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Amazing all this fuss over a rail line to an airport that for years after it was first built was decried as a white elephant...

Posted by: rick jones | January 24, 2008 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Exactly Rick, the public at large can't see farther than the here and now. The airport that was once a white elephant is now one the areas key economic drivers. A driver that is being choked to death by traffic and short sightedness. Now we will punt any possible solutions a few more years down the road for the next generation and hope that some who the cost of construction and land will magically come down, even though it never has before. In the meantime we will moan about how bad traffic is and throw a few buses at it, and think about those brave civil servants who robbed the state of VA out of nearly a billion in public funds.

Posted by: Malcom | January 24, 2008 9:04 PM | Report abuse

make it private. If a private company cannot or will not build it, why should the government spend money on it? The issues raised in the letter are serious and an indictment of the mis-management already visible on the project; and that's before any dirt has been moved.

Posted by: jd | January 24, 2008 9:08 PM | Report abuse

JD, If all Public works projects are paid for by Private entities then why would we need to pay federal taxes ? Private funds are neccessary and must be a big part of the package (IE all the land that Airport Authority is giving to the project). But 5 Billion is a lot of money for one private entity to sink it a project that is supposedly for the benefit of everyone. There needs to be private, state, and federal money on this. I want my taxes State and Federal invested in the infrastructure of our country, not saved at the expense of our public works so it can be added to a lost cause in the middle of the deseret across the globe in a war that has been fought for 1,000 of years.

Posted by: Malcom | January 24, 2008 9:23 PM | Report abuse

There is no good reason for the federal government to pay for the private development of Tysons Corner. Get connected to Dulles efficiently, but stop the Tysons boondoggle.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2008 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Malcom, what does this have to do with Kosovo?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2008 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Build the rail above ground along the toll road from the WFC station to the airport. This is rail to Dulles not rail to Tysons. The Tysons people had already delayed this so much it has exceeded expense projections.You don't seetunnels through Reston. Have a bus system that would support the tysons area as Reston would have. I'm tire of the winers in Tyson's

Posted by: richterp9 | January 24, 2008 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Malcom ... you could drive Tysons twice over from Reston in the time spent driving to the Reston station, circling the small parking lot 5 times looking for a non-existent parking spot, finally parking your car, waiting for a train to arrive, riding the train, and walking to your office (which is probably a 10 - 15 minute walk from any of the closest stations in Tysons).

Except for the occasional accident and construction, I've never seen the Dulles Access road jammed up. So you're telling me adding extra-capacity, via roads, to handle future capacity wouldn't do the trick?

The road infrastructure around the NoVa region is easily behind development by about 20 years. I say we focus on upgrading the road infrastructure to where it should be, THEN worry about public transportation.

Most of the traffic problems in the region would be solved via an outer beltway (I-270 --> Dulles Airport --> I-95 in VA & I-270 --> I-95 in MD --> I-95 in VA).

Posted by: Opposed_2_Dulles_Rail | January 24, 2008 9:40 PM | Report abuse

I hate to sound like some loon, but I'm going to anyway. Here goes...

So, we can spend $9 Billion a month in Iraq without a problem, but we can't find any money to build the rail through Tysons?

I hate to be that cynical about it, but I'm trying to prove a point. It may sound nuts to invoke the War, but from a purely fiscal standpoint, it makes sense. There's plenty of motivation to send money overseas. But spend it here? No, that makes the Federal Government all uptight.

It's hypocritical for the Federal Gov't to treat the Tysons project as The Alamo in regards to federal spending when we're throwing money down that black hole in the Middle East. We might as well just burn the money on the front lawn of The Capitol. You'd get the same return.
I fully agree. I wouldn't be surprised at all to find out that Bush somehow got involved with this decision. Absolutely rediculous that we are willing to spend so much in Iraq (yet the Republicans who felt so strongly about this war obviously don't feel too strongly about it, otherwise they would have properly funded it), but nothing here in America that benefits our own people and economy. This is why we desparately need change in November.

I've about had it with the way our country is being led, and this is just another example to toss into the pot. I'm glad I have dual citizenship so I at least have a place to go if things don't turn around.

Posted by: Woodley Park | January 24, 2008 10:17 PM | Report abuse

How is it Bush's fault Metro is not funded? Metro has been underfunded way before Bush came along.

Blame this on Governor Warner for giving the project to the airport. Blame this on Governor Kaine for not takinbg it back.

Posted by: grifter | January 24, 2008 10:22 PM | Report abuse

The fact that the airport authority owns the land is irrelevant. I-66 is owned by VDOT but they didn't build the Orange Line. With that said, the airport authority does not own the land. The airport authority runs the airport. The land is owned by the feds.

Posted by: Fact Man | January 24, 2008 10:25 PM | Report abuse

"I've never seen the Dulles Access road jammed up...."

Hmm...the Dulles Toll Road is "jammed up" nearly every day.

Have any of you people opposed to the Metro seen the long lines of people waiting for the bus from Herndon-Monroe to West Falls Church and on the way back at night? That bus has to sit in traffic for 15 minutes just getting to the middle of the access road- and it's still wildly popular. The garage is full before 8AM.

It basically is being run by a private entity, I think that is really what has the FTA upset. They also have their preferred contractors who were not selected. They shouldn't let their 15% of the funding be a veto. Maybe they should just hold off on delivering the funds until the project is underway and meets some targets??

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2008 10:52 PM | Report abuse

I have to say, though I've supported Dulles Rail, I'm starting to come around to FTA's position.

This has always been a classic "built by committee" project, intended to please everyone but ultimately helping no one.

It's been apparent for a while that the backers of this project have bit off more than they can chew. I'm not even sure I'd call the current plan a "Dulles Rail" project, because right now it's just a "Reston Rail and maybe get to Dulles in ten or twenty years" project.

I've never entirely been comfortable with the need for $2-$3 tolls on the Toll Road, or the confidence that Metro will be able to handle the additional congestion when the system (the Orange Line especially) is already busting at the seams.

I think a lot of us are guilty of looking past the flaws in this project because of some ideal notion that we MUST have rail to Dulles, even if we have to work out the implementation details later.

Maybe it really is time to go back to the drawing board and put together a scaled-back project that focuses on just the highest priority -- whatever that may be -- rather than try to have something for everyone and end up with nothing for anyone.

Posted by: Andrew | January 24, 2008 11:10 PM | Report abuse

The bad news for Tysons/Dulles rail should really be no surprise, especially after the Inspector General's report back in July of 2007.
I was amazed at the lack of attention this report received. The Post should have given it much more coverage.

I also think the Post published many articles that may have given the false impression that the project was already approved, or that approval was inevitable or just a formality. You also have to wonder why the tunnel advocates would ask for a more complex project when the current project was in jeopardy.

Go back and look at the history of this project. At one point, the Feds were willing to pay for 80% of the new construction capital costs for a Bus Rapid Transit system. If the region would have taken the Feds up on that offer, we would have BRT system to Dulles today.

Posted by: markjones999999 | January 24, 2008 11:12 PM | Report abuse

Why is the airports authority in charge of this anyway? It's not an airport project. It's a scam by Virginia authorities to do something about the traffic disaster they've allowed to develop in Northern Virginia.

If the airports authority really wanted to provide access to Dulles they wouldn't waste time trying to figure out how to get through Tysons Corner. They would focus on creating a practical transit option for getting to and from the airport. (Don't tell me one already exists. I've taken both the WMATA and the Washington Flyer bus to the airport and both "services" are wretchedly inconvenient.)

Posted by: Ktriarch | January 24, 2008 11:16 PM | Report abuse

Wow! Let me start by saying that its a sad day for transportation in the region. No, not because the Dulles Rail project may have been mortally wounded. But because we have taken so long, spent so much money, and wasted so much of everyone's time to get where we are...nowhere.

Full disclosure: I have, in the past, been paid to help make this project happen. That being said, I have no current involvement or financial interest in the project (as currently defined or any of the alternatives suggested).

What is really sad to me is that after reading the posts to this story it is vividly clear that we failed as the project team and the press failed as well to explain the purpose and the value of providing high quality transit in the Dulles Corridor.

The fact that anyone is questioning the need for and value of transit in this region is somewhat frightening. What will it take? $5.00/gallon gas? The worst traffic in the nation (not just second to LA as we are now)?

Let me try to answer a couple of key questions and pass along a few facts that seem to be ignored in this debate.

Question 1: Do we need rail to Dulles Airport?

Answer: No and Yes. From a strict transportation planning perspective, its probably not the most effective use of scarce dollars because based on the general lack of price sensitivity for airport trips, and the scarcity of overnight parking at Metro stations (basically not allowed), the percentage of air travellers who will use Metro is low. Known as the "mode share" and expressed as a percentage of total trips, it is typically about 5-10% for US airports. Reagan National (DCA) is one of, if not the highest in the nation at around 15%. But that is more of a function of the fact that its location makes the time from airport to destination competitive for Metro, taxi, and private car. Many more of the travelers to DCA are destined for downtown than people flying into Dulles. Airport mode share is a lot higher in Europe, but that a whole different discussion.

However, as many event and conference planners will tell you, a decision criteria for selecting a conference or event site is the cost and availability of high quality (read rail) transit from the airport. Maybe not rationale, but true.

It also impacts the decision to operate and success of low cost air carriers at an airport. Their target market (price sensitive people like students and families) do not have their employer paying their taxi or parking and are more likely to use the train. So no rail to Dulles may reduce the number of people who want to hold their conference or meeting here (impacting the local economy) and could keep airfares higher at Dulles.

All in all, the airport authority feels its important to have the rail connection and they make a pretty good business (not strictly transportation) case.

Question 2: If its just about rail to the airport, why spend all this money in Tysons Corner?

A: While the airport rail connection has less than stellar ridership numbers, Tysons is a different story. Most transit trips (and the vast majority of all trips) we take each day are from home to work and back home. Tysons, with over 100,000 jobs, is the second largest employment center in the region (only second to downtown DC). That's 100,000 people going to work in the morning and home at night. Ever wonder why I-66 is congested leaving DC in the morning? That's people going to work in Tysons. Add to that the fact that its the largest concentration of retail space on the east coast outside New York and you have a lot of people sitting in traffic in and around Tysons. Tysons is probably the largest cluster of jobs and retail in the nation not served by rail (I know of at least three people who will correct me if I'm wrong on this). And saying that we just need to fix the road network in Tysons is like saying we just need ban private cars in Manhattan. Sure it works on paper until you start telling the developers which of their building we will need to tear down. Baron Haussmann did it in Paris and Robert Moses did it in NY, but their both dead and neither had to contend with Virginia property rights.

I've gone on way too long so I will leave it to others to discuss why tunneling isn't cheaper than building above ground, why Bechtel is not a corporation run by Satan, and how the airport could just build the project from the Orange Line to the Dulles without another dollar of federal money and even probably spend less of local money as well. But, I will leave you with one more fact. We have already spent around $150 million getting to nowhere and more study won't tell us much we don't already know.

Posted by: Dr. Mihi | January 24, 2008 11:24 PM | Report abuse

"" the Bush administration refuses to provide any federal funding to help run Metro, and then they say that the lack of a dedicated funding source is a reason to cancel Metro's expansion.

How convenient.""

The Feds gave WMATA over 400 million in 2006. Plus the Feds paid over 9 billion dollars (over 20 billion in today's dollars) to build Metrorail.

Posted by: markjones999999 | January 24, 2008 11:26 PM | Report abuse

Just took the AirTrain from Kennedy to the Subway line in Jamacia Long Island, to connect to the MTA line and then to the city. Imagine public transportion from an Urban Hub to it's airport that doesn't involve a automobile and it only took 80 years to build.
Don't let the status quo and old boy network destroy a really needed idea. Also be real and not expect the rail to pay for itself with fares, it never will. But what would be the cost of upgrading DC's sophomoric and grossly inadequate highway system.

Posted by: Chris | January 24, 2008 11:33 PM | Report abuse

Hey Folks, this is a concerted effort on the part of the FTA to eliminate all light rail in the nation. They are trying to block our light rail programs here in Portland, Oregon too saying that they would much rather have bus service instead of light rail after years of promoting light rail. It isn't just this Dulles project. The FTA evaluation on efficiency of such services is how many people get off light rail to then get on a bus, but they won't count people who use light rail in place of bus in their calculations. It is stupidity at its finest. Someone needs to follow the money trail on this one and find out why the FTA is trying to replace all light rail projects around the USA with busses right now.

Posted by: Chuck P | January 25, 2008 12:01 AM | Report abuse

Excellent Points Dr. Mihi. I think there was a lot of misinformation out there and the public really lacked the intiative or ability to gain any real knowledge about the project. There were some developers who stood to gain from Metro and there were some that stood to gain from it's failure. Pinning it on them is flat out wrong.

With 100,000 jobs in Tyson and easily another 100,000 along the Dulles Corridor, the two areas are vital to the economic strength of the VA and the greater DC area. That strength is not a given and it can be lost. We cannot afford to wallow and waste time. Major employers can and will leave this area if we cannot progress and devlop new solutions.

Metro is only one of many solutions that need to be applied in order to keep our region strong. We just lost $125 Million dollars of money currently invested in the project. The soonest another proposal/bid can even go forward is 3 years, and that $900 millon will not be there anymore. Putting a $5 Billion dollar project on hold for 3 years will cost us an additional $600 million through inflation assuming it stays at 4% a year. That is a lot of lost money.

Posted by: Malcom | January 25, 2008 12:09 AM | Report abuse

Elevated rail in Tysons in a bad idea. The time has always been right for a tunnel. Do it right or don't do it at all. Meanwhile, that new subway in Bagdad will be built lickity spilt. How unfortunate we can't even help the hard working citizens in our own capitol.

Posted by: David | January 25, 2008 12:11 AM | Report abuse

Aaron succinctly observes: "It's a RAIL LINE. I'm amazed this is so difficult! A rail line to the main airport of a world capital. Why is this even a question?"

Aaron's correct. The problem, quite simply, is that Republican policies have bankrupted the United States. 1) Ronald Reagan / Milton Friedman "free market" economics 2) Bush's "Tax cuts will pay for themselves (when?)" and 3) Bush's $1 trillion Iraq War.

If you don't get it, write this 100 times on the blackboard:

Republicans = bankrupted America
Republicans = bankrupted America
Republicans = bankrupted America
Republicans = bankrupted America
Republicans = bankrupted America

Posted by: AKW123 | January 25, 2008 12:15 AM | Report abuse

There's another dirty little secret about this project. The tunnels in Rosslyn don't have enough capacity for the Blue and Orange line today. There is no way the tunnels have enough capacity for the (new) Silver line. What is the plan to get Blue, Orange and Silver line trains through Rosslyn?

My understanding is that "WMATA Core Capacity Upgrade" (good luck finding info on this) has some numbers on this, but one has to wonder how much additional money is needed to address the Rosslyn bottleneck.

Posted by: markjones999999 | January 25, 2008 1:00 AM | Report abuse

The real question is if the FTA won't fund the Dulles extension, will they give dedicated funding to WMATA? Tysons has alot of jobs but it will NEVER be the center of the region, DC will. It also will never be a Bethesda or Clarendon/Ballston (which is what it is trying to become). I am not convinced Fairfax county knows how to make that happen. In fact its very existence is an example of the county's many urban disasters. All of that being said, if the show must go on I beleive the cost of the extension can be drastically reduced if stations are elminated. Tysons does not need four stops. Why does Capital One need a metro stop at its doorstep? Didn't they almost go bankrupt? Tysons 7 and Tysons 123 are all that are needed. They will recieve the highest volume of traffic and will be incorporated into Fairfax's "suburban getaway" vision (again I am sceptical). Realistically I know that if this project is rebid, it will be another 10 years before it is built. I must confess I am torn between scrapping it and keeping it, but the compromises I stated make the most sense in the end.

Posted by: Sivad | January 25, 2008 2:29 AM | Report abuse

Someone was saying if transportation problems aren't solved then companies might need to move out of Tyson's. Maybe that is for the best? Why can't these companies move to DC or some better place? Then finding transportation solutions for getting to and from the city are easier to solve than building a new city in a place where it won't fit.

Anyways, I support rail (VRE) or Bus Rapid Transit now that I've read that Metro has stations held up by jacks and two-by-fours. They need to fix the current rail before building more.

Posted by: dkf747 | January 25, 2008 7:41 AM | Report abuse

"Federal Transit Administrator James Simpson said this afternoon that his agency has serious questions about whether the Washington airports authority can build the rail line to Dulles and whether Metro can operate it."


His boss, DOT secretary Mary Peters, has PROVEN to not be capable of building anything (next generation ATC system) or operating it. Maybe when the DOT is forced to quit pissing away money due to their incompetence this region will be allowed to have some of the bread crumbs.

Posted by: WL | January 25, 2008 8:13 AM | Report abuse

Time to close down National Airport. If the federal government won't help the region solve their transportation problems then they can all sit in traffic trying to get to Dulles for their flight like the rest of us.

Posted by: What a joke | January 25, 2008 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Here's the fundamental problem:

"Simpson emphasized his concerns about Metro, likening the Dulles expansion to putting a two-room addition onto a house that is falling down. "First, you have to fix the house," he said later at a news conference. "Metro's operational issues have become really serious over the last several months," he said. "I spent several hours with senior staff at Metro talking about their unfunded needs. They're holding up some of their subway stations with jacks. They're holding other subway stations up with two-by-fours and plywood. I could go on."

Does anyone TRULY think Metro can run trains reliably and timely on a 30 mile extension? Any idea how many outgoing flights will be missed at IAD if you try to rely on Metro to get you there on time? One smoking light fixture, and you're never making your plane.

Posted by: nocando | January 25, 2008 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Why a rail to Dulles? It is easy to get to Dulles. You have the toll road. I don't commute to Dulles. Lets spend the money helping commuters who are tired of sitting in their cars going to and from work!!!

Posted by: steve | January 25, 2008 9:04 AM | Report abuse

The Feds should fund Dulles Rail now!
Most world class cites (US/Foreign)have them. DC Area has the 2nd worst traffic in the US. Dulles Rail will save gas, save $40-80 taxi bills, save many lives, provide better escape route for NW corridor of Northern VA, and show the world our committment to reducing dependence on foreign oil and reducing global warming.

A simple, stable source of funding is needed. My choice is a regional gas tax: a small cost that would produce tremendous benefits to users and non-uses alike (high benefit/cost ration).

Posted by: Dan Peacock | January 25, 2008 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Why not an Orange line spur that terminates at Tysons Corner? Wouldn't that take care of Tysons Corner?

And why does Dulles have to be connected to Metrorail by a subway line, where going from Dulles to downtown DC would be a 25-30 mile trip and take more than an hour, with at least one change of subway trains (Silver to Orange)?

Heathrow is 15 miles from Central London. Atlanta's airport is 15 miles from downtown Atlanta. Logan is less than 5 miles from downtown Boston. O'Hare is 15 miles from downtown Chicago. All those airports have subway connections.

Charles de Gaulle is 15 miles from Central Paris, but it has RER service (commuter rail) not Metro. Gatwick is 30 miles from Central London and has high-speed rail to Victoria Station, not a Tube stop. Fiumicino is more than 20 miles away from Rome and has high-speed rail to Termini Station, not a Metro stop.

See the pattern here? I can't think of any subway systems that go from downtown to the airport when it's a good 25-30 miles away. That kind of distance calls for high-speed/commuter rail.

So, how about this? A brand-new VRE line that stops at Rosslyn, Tysons, Reston, Dulles, Sterling, and Winchester (60 miles from downtown DC).

Posted by: NoVA Dem | January 25, 2008 9:18 AM | Report abuse

The Feds should fund Dulles Rail now!
Most world class cites (US/Foreign)have them. DC Area has the 2nd worst traffic in the US. Dulles Rail will save gas, save $40-80 taxi bills, save many lives, provide better escape route for NW corridor of Northern VA, and show the world our committment to reducing dependence on foreign oil and reducing global warming.

A simple, stable source of funding is needed. My choice is a regional gas tax: a small cost that would produce tremendous benefits to users and non-uses alike (high benefit/cost ratio).

Posted by: Dan Peacock | January 25, 2008 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Let's see. Feds slam Dulles rail project, approve MD ICC project. Expansion of Fairfax, Loudon, PW country roads stretching ultimately towards IAD...

Is it just me, or does this start to paint a picture of that long-forgotten idea of a outer-beltway (or at least a half-belt) being built around an inner-beltway coming to fruition by piecemeal, all ultimately to be connected as a limited access divided highway? Now that rail seems to be dead again (no commentary here on its demise), folks are bound to bring up the idea of another Potomac crossing again.

Just look at the maps. "I-370" (all 3 miles of it) is destined to carry future ICC traffic from just west of I-270 east over to interchanges at I-95 and US-1 in PG county. That's the top part of the loop. To the south, you've got the Fairfax County Parkway/7100 stretching from I-95 at Lorton, west/northwest to interchanges at I-66, US-50, and the Dulles Toll/Airport Access Road - a roadway that could eventually become a dualized divided limited access highway in the stretches where it isn't already - an "easy" enough connection to Rte 28, no? That's another 3rds of the loop.

I just see the pressure growing ever greater to build the connecting stretch of road and new Potomac crossing between where Rte 28 reaches it's northern most point and where I-270 reaches its western terminus, No commentary on whether that's good or bad. I just see the pieces eventually coming together for that Outer Belt connecting the outer 'burbs in MD and VA with the Tysons area and IAD.

Posted by: hmm... | January 25, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

The reactionaries who believe that eight lanes on I-66 inside the Beltway (in someone else's neighborhood) will solve our problems have not, apparently, considered the outcome of the massive widening of I-270. That didn't work, and now Maryland is considering widening it again. Whoever said the objective is to move people, not cars, was right.

Posted by: mouth of mclean | January 25, 2008 10:26 AM | Report abuse

I think the metro plan was a good idea and hate to see that it looks like it will be killed.

One advantage of a Dulles line is that it would take commuters both directions, rather than predominately into DC.

Maybe some good can come out of this and the Metro will finally be given a dedicated funding source.

Posted by: verbal | January 25, 2008 10:35 AM | Report abuse

If Dulles Toll Road money is not going to be wasted on this boondoggle, it's past time to remove the tolls - they have already collected more than enough money to pay off the bonds!
From the left over money, issue refunds to the Smart Tag holders who have been paying increased tolls for the Tysons Corner billionaire developers pipe dream.

Posted by: Remove The Tolls | January 25, 2008 10:48 AM | Report abuse

The best idea I have heard all day. A rail system for the purported benefit of the entire region (VA, DC and MD) should have never been placed on the backs of users of ONE road. Give the money back to these people NOW!

Posted by: Agree with remove the tolls | January 25, 2008 11:02 AM | Report abuse

"And why does Dulles have to be connected to Metrorail by a subway line, where going from Dulles to downtown DC would be a 25-30 mile trip and take more than an hour, with at least one change of subway trains (Silver to Orange)?"

Actually, their intent was not that you would change trains--their plan was to run the Silver Line all the way to Stadium-Armory (the first place with a pocket track allowing a train to reverse direction without holding up other trains) precisely because they figured people wouldn't want to change trains. This strategy would require cutting the number of Orange and Blue Line trains because safety concerns mandate a certain amount of headway between trains, such that the only way to add more trains to existing trackage already at or near capacity is to reduce the frequency of the other trains. Some service, huh? We regularly hear about the Orange Line being jammed to capacity, and they want to REDUCE the number of trains?

I have to agree with the Feds about questioning Metro's competence to operate this. I heard Catoe on the radio last night saying that Metro will have no problem with funding the operation of this extension. That's bollocks. I seem to recall that the fare increase was just enacted to allow Metro barely to scrape by in meeting its current expenses (which do not include operating the Silver Line).

Metro to Tysons makes sense (in a tunnel). Metro to Dulles does not. A commuter-rail train, or a high-speed non-stop train, that connects Dulles to Union Station (preferably with the fewest possible stops--say, one stop near Tysons connecting to a light-rail loop or a tram that then serves that area) is a far more logical way to go. What rational person would want to board a Metro train out near Dulles and put up not only with all the stops between there and the existing Orange Line, but also all those stupid stops in Arlington that are three blocks apart (Virginia Square, Clarendon, etc.)? It would take FOREVER to make that trip, and as others have noted, Metro shuts down the trains as soon as a passenger so much as farts on the wrong side of the platform. I recognize that the cost of the real estate to build a real train to Union Station would probably be higher than the cost of the Metro line, but in the end I think such a service would gain far more passengers and thus would make more financial sense.

Posted by: Rich | January 25, 2008 11:59 AM | Report abuse

1/ higher density,mixed use zoning and other traffic enhancements has potential to improve traffic for very little public cost.
2/ Tysons is 20th largest city in US as measured by revenue. Its development is inevitable, but how it gets done is really important. Traffic consultants at public mtg had not considered Rt 7 traffic on system, for example. What f'in yahoos.
3/ Thank you to the ill informed imbecile that thought this was a great right-wing conspiracy led by GWB. That comment had me laughing!

Posted by: lawrence | January 25, 2008 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Please call the FTA Administrator's office and support their decision. 202-366-4040.

Posted by: T2 | January 25, 2008 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I live in Reston (within walking distance to the planned Wiehle ave station) and work for a consulting company in Tysons corner.

Everyday I take the toll road because there is no practical bus route. There is a bus between my house and Tysons corner, but it is not safe and it's too far to walk from the bus stop in Tysons to my office plus there is no sidewalk.

Apparently the Tysons planners think that it's not prudent to build even a simple sidewalk or pedestrian bridge/crosswalk until there is a tunnel under Tysons. They say that putting the rail line under Tysons would make Tysons more pedestrian friendly.

Wouldn't a few sidewalks and pedestrian walkways make Tysons more pedestrian friendly regardless of a rail line going above, below, or around Tysons?

I was hoping the rail would be the answer to my transportation problem, but now it doesn't appear to be so (I will check again next week just to be sure).

As I recall, three years ago the price for me to drive the toll road went up from 75 cents to 1.25 each way (a 66 percent increase) - the reason for the price increase according to the news: To help pay for the new rail line extension.

So how do I get my money back?

Posted by: Jack | January 25, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse

While I wanted to see the line built, it is better if we wait and do it right than not do it at all. I am reminded of a line from the Billy Joel song "Angry Young Man": "I once believed in caused too, I had my pointless point of view, And life went on no matter who was wrong or right". I also think of a line from the Rush song "Nobody's Hero": "Is the voice of reason against the howling mob". So again, I would rather wait and have it done right than to rush it and mess it up. Also, put the project out for bid.

Posted by: Tom L | January 25, 2008 12:43 PM | Report abuse


You can carpool if you like. However, what makes you think that a rail line will mean that you can walk all of a sudden? I walked from Tysons Ford a number of times over to my office - about half a mile - with sidewalks, and thought I was going to get taken out (which says nothing about the stares a normal, young professional guy trying to walk down Route 7 received from drivers). THIS PLAN DOES NOT FIX THOSE WOES. Fairfax County has a long history of making promises it doesn't keep. If they really had the will, they would have required all the plans that have been approved in the last 5 years to have adequate sidewalks, contribute to expanding and redesigning existing infrastructure, and been implementing some sort of vision. Instead, it is more of the same.

hmmm...., yes, there should be an outer beltway. We can dream. If you read the Reston Master Plan book, published in 1963, see page 8 for a photo and the end of page 9 for the comment how "vehicular access will continually improve". How wrong he was.

Posted by: Steven | January 25, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

If the issue is getting people to IAD, then light rail or rapid bus from East Falls Church to the airport would be the best (cheapest) option.

If the issue is supporting development in Tyson's and along the Dulles Tech corridor, then that's a planning issue. It also shows a major difference in planning between Arlington and Fairfax. Arlington decided to support high-density residential and office development near its Metro stops and got Ballston, Rosslyn, and Wilson Blvd. Good planning, I'd say. Fairfax County supported development along areas without access to Metro and got Tysons and the Dulles Tech Corridor. Maybe Fairfax County should have thought about supporting this kind of development near its Metro stations, instead. Want to fix traffic along Rt. 7? How about building a Vienna/Fairfax/Falls Church tech corridor instead. Maybe Huntington Town Center would have made more sense than Reston Town Center. What about vertical development near the Franconia/Springfield metro? If Fairfax wants to build edge cities that work, it needs to dance with the transit system it has, not the one it wants.

You can also find examples in Montgomery County (Silver Spring, d-town Bethesda, and now, Rockville) and to a lesser extent, in PG County (Largo Town Center).

Posted by: DCer | January 25, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

>>> So, how about this? A brand-new VRE line that stops at Rosslyn, Tysons, Reston, Dulles, Sterling, and Winchester (60 miles from downtown DC).

Add stops in Leesburg and Purcellville as well as Paris and maybe one or two other spots between Sterling and Winchester, and you can sign me up. Tunnelling through Mount Weather is going to be a bit of an expensive challenge though. :)

Posted by: PhilBiker | January 25, 2008 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Just imagine how profitable and useful the W&OD railroad from Arlington to Bluemont would be had it not been ripped up in 1968. I don't expect to see any support for redeveloping that line at this point, shat with the wonderful park it has become.

Posted by: PhilBiker | January 25, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Three cheers for U.S. DOT, which added some much-needed (albeit overdue) common sense to the Dulles transit discussion. It's nice to see that someone remembers the goal here should be TRANSPORTATION, and who is looking out for taxpayers as well.

"Rail to Dulles" managed to combine the worst of all options: skyrocketing costs and endless squabbles over routing; not enough passenger capacity to reduce highway traffic, but still sufficient to overcrowd the Orange Line (and squeeze out Arlington riders); untested transit management by the airport authority, and demonstrated management incompetence by the transit agency.

And did anyone seriously think that Dulles airport travelers would want to ride for 30-45 minutes (with luggage) on crowded trains making every local stop, when efficient door-to-door shuttle van service is readily available?

It's time to start work on REAL transit solutions that will move people, rather than expensive projects to benefit politicians and developers. The obvious choice is a network of flexible, efficient bus lanes, which can be built more quickly, and at far less cost, to provide much better transit service.

Posted by: Relieved in Arlington | January 25, 2008 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I supported Dulles rail at the start, but it has turned into a giant wasteful project that will only cause more problems.

1. As noted above:

The tunnels in Rosslyn don't have enough capacity for the Blue and Orange line today. There is no way the tunnels have enough capacity for the (new) Silver line.

2. The Tysons community has ruined the project by demanding billions of dollars of other people's money so they can reinvent themselves, slow down the actual connection to Dulles, and add passengers that the Metro system has no capacity for.

3. Think it's hard to get to Dulles? Don't fly through it. The region has 3 airports, pick the one that you can get to. If you can't get to any of them, that's your fault for living in West Virginia.

Posted by: Alexandria | January 25, 2008 3:55 PM | Report abuse

How did Tysons ever develop without rail? If rail brings development, shouldn't Tysons be in Vienna?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 25, 2008 5:30 PM | Report abuse

I think that all the Democrats in Northern Virginia would agree that the money should be spent on widening, expanding, strengthening, and thickening the social safety net for Illegal Immigrants. Gosh Dang, what about the children!

Posted by: iknowall | January 25, 2008 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Take the rail project away from the feds and let private industry build and maintain it. Halliburton could probably build it in less than 5 years for half the cost the feds would (eventually) spend on it (can you say "remember Boston's Big Dig" boys and girls?) over the course of 10 years (probably more). And if anybody disagrees with my plan, I'll send my pals from Blackwater to deal with you!

Posted by: Rush | January 25, 2008 10:13 PM | Report abuse

No angry comment ever fed a hungry illegal immigrant, much less got them to the airport in time to catch their deportation flight back to their country of origin.

Posted by: iknowmore | January 25, 2008 10:16 PM | Report abuse

I think the ideal solution (assuming cost was no object, which, of course, it is) would 1) create a faster link to the airport than Metro would provide, 2) link Tysons via Metro and 3) provide commuter rail access to DC from as far as Leesburg. Which, to me, means that a single rail line just isn't most practical. Rather, I think they should have the new sliver line terminate in Centreville, run through Tysons (with several stops) continue through Georgetown and hook up with the orange/blue line in the GW/Foggy Bottom area. This would alleviate some of the ridership pressue on the orange line, extend Metro further west and serve Georgetown for the first time. There should also be a spur from the Falls Church area of the Orange Line so many other Northern Virginians will have a quick rail option to Tysons. As for serving the airport, VRE should be the choice. A new western line should serve Leesburg, Dulles Town Center, the airport, Herndon and Tysons (one stop, connect with the new Metro line) before continuing to Union Station. Quick rail access from further west would likely alleviate significant pressure on Rte. 7 and the Dulles Toll Road, and having real Metro in Tysons would help that area realize it's potential as an urban center. Granted, this proposal would be at least doubly (and probably much more, considering you'd be building another Metro Potomac crossing) expensive from what is currently proposed, but I also think it would provide much more bang for the buck. It would be a better Metro solution for Tysons, and it would actually provide rapid rail access to Dulles. Too bad there's not an unlimited budget.

Posted by: Baltimore | January 26, 2008 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Baltimore, we're trying to think small here. They probably wouldn't even have more cars for Dulles rail, they'll just take them off of other overcrowded lines

Posted by: Anonymous | January 27, 2008 3:25 PM | Report abuse

I think Dulles Airport Rail line should be built. Although Rail Line is will not solve the problem completely. It should be coupled with bus lanes on I-66 and toll road. Adding new lanes to I-66 or toll road is just going to make commute faster on the highways. All the exits without expansion are already blocked during peak hours. Adding lanes to the highways is only going to make taking exits more worse as the exit roads will not be widened.

Posted by: UC, Mclean, VA | January 28, 2008 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I am working on the Dulles Metro Project and it is so badly mismanaged I am ashamed to be involved in it. The entire project should be killed today. The office has over 150 people from VDOT, MWAA, WMATA, etc... and all they do is point fingers at each other. If it is ever ressurected - it should be bid out and a lot of money will be saved!

Posted by: John K. | January 29, 2008 4:12 PM | Report abuse

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