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Gov. Kaine Sticks by Dulles Rail

Gov. Tim Kaine hasn't given up on the project, despite the hard hit it took last week from Federal Transit Administrator James Simpson and his boss, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters.

He talked about the next step on Dulles rail this morning on WTOP's Ask the Governor show:
"Our game plan: Work with the secretary's office, answer the questions that the administrator has raised and make this critical project happen."

Kaine and other officials behind the project took the FTA's response last week as you might take an unfair performance evaluation at work, when it sounds like the bosses were saving stuff up to unload on you all at once. The person on the receiving end is bound to be thinking about all the times the bosses could have said some of these things, and wonder why they're piling on now.

Kaine noted on the radio, as other Virginia leaders did in today's story by Amy Gardner in The Post, that the FTA sent a report to Congress last week "with the project greenlighted." But Kaine would not attribute any motives to the surprise drubbing the feds delivered last week.

Instead, he reviewed Virginia's case for having dealt with federal concerns about the project's cost-effectiveness. Such projects must meet tough federal standards on the cost of moving people by train.

He also noted some of the other concerns raised by the FTA: Does the Washington airports authority, which manages Dulles and Reagan National airports, have the experience to manage a $5 billion railroad construction project? Can Metro, with its funding and operational problems, run a new train line once it's built?

Kaine today: "We didn't see any concern raised that we didn't think, gosh, if this is your concern, we've got an answer for it."

Peters has agreed to continue the discussion.

If there is a Plan B, Kaine would not acknowledge it. Instead, he talked about finding ways to succeed with the plan developed over the past few years to put the line through Tysons and on out to Dulles. There is really not an effective course for the region without rail, he said.

"The entire premise of this is that if we're going to build rail infrastructure to this important asset, Dulles, we have to have a federal partner."

What if we don't? Kaine said he didn't like the idea of using higher tolls on the Dulles Toll Road to raise the $900 million that would have come from the federal government. "My worry would be that the toll requirements would be exorbitant," he said.

But his bottom line about the rail link was: "This is necessary for the region."

By Robert Thomson  |  January 29, 2008; 1:06 PM ET
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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Comments

I don't doubt that the link is necessary, but do we really need to spend $5 billion for a plan that has more flaws than a cheap diamond?

Kaine's stubborness along with the rest of our elected leaders just show that they do not know how to open their minds to alternative solutions to problems. Metro is not the only rail solution to connect Dulles and Tysons to the existing transportation network, but is definitely the most expensive.

Until we realize that, Northern Virginia might as well throw its money away on this ill-conceived plan.

Posted by: Die Metro To Dulles Die | January 29, 2008 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Metro to Tysons certainly makes sense. As far as all the way to Dulles I could see that being a rapid bus system.

Posted by: usiel | January 29, 2008 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Should Virginia have it's own transit organization? Metro doesn't seem to be well managed. Maybe this silver line (and the light rail lines down Columbia Pike and elsewhere) should be under different management.

Posted by: Ed | January 29, 2008 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Die Metro,

The thing about considering other alternatives (and the were considered, by the way), is that if you want to use even a single cent of federal funds, you have to go through the entire Environmental Impact Statement process, which takes years and years. Open minds aren't the issue - even if they were, it's the minds of those making the rules regarding federal funds that need to change - that's where all the restrictions are.

The price of construction materials (steel, concrete, etc.) has been increasing far faster than the general rate of inflation for several years now. Delay means substantial added cost. Looking at other options also means added costs.

If the project is truly dead, then yes, it makes sense to re-evaluate. However, so long as there's a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel, rest assured they will pursue it.

Posted by: Alex B. | January 29, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

I know alternatives have not been considered. It was not an open bid contract. In rushing the process Virginia has shot itself in the foot. Metro is not the only form of rapid transit people. We all know folks in NOVA (I live in Reston btw) are too pretentious to use buses, but there are nicer alternatives in existence which I can guarantee have not been reviewed. What about using a combination of Metro and light rail? Has anyone even discussed what this will do to the Orange line as folks take the Silver line past Tysons to get into DC? What about a tunnel like is being done in San Diego? The answer is most likely no, which is why the FTA is finally seeing the glaring flaws in this project. I completely disagree with AAA's assessment of the current situation. The Dulles Access road is not by any means a "third world" means of reaching Dulles. Its our third world infrastructure that links to it which is bad. 267 next to I-270 is one of the best roads in the region. Two thirds of people drive, so it makes perfect sense to have it as is. The airport is simply too far away for heavy rail. Five billion speaks for itself.

Posted by: Sivad | January 29, 2008 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Governor Kaine is doing what any other politician would do - go for the short-term sound bite, which is saying "This is necessary for the region." He is right, if he is interested in tying up the region in worse traffic and congestion - certainly, the other legislators in Richmond are interested in that.

This plan will succeed in further congesting Tysons, the Orange line, and be used for its originally stated purpose only very occasionally - to get passengers to IAD.

The Access Road is a great way to get to IAD - 3rd world my foot. Crawling, which is faster than traffic can already go in Tysons, is 3rd world - so this plan is sending Tysons back to the 1800s.

Posted by: Rail yes, not this plan | January 29, 2008 6:25 PM | Report abuse

how about kaine donating from his campaign slush fund instead of sticking it to taxpayers in other states?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 29, 2008 7:55 PM | Report abuse

How about taking the funds earmarked for Walter Tejada's Columbia Pike trolly boondoggle and applying them to the Silver Line?

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