MWAA Opts for Expensive Underground Dulles Metro Station

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority voted Wednesday for the more expensive Dulles Metro option: An underground station.

An above-ground Metrorail station at Dulles International Airport would save hundreds of millions of dollars in construction costs. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said the underground station could add $300 million in costs to a project that is already expected to exceed its $2.5 billion budget.

“The tunnel alignment, by all accounts, is a more expensive alignment than the aerial option through the airport, and will place a heavy financial burden on local funding partners and Dulles Toll Road users,” Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton said.

"This is a bad decision," Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., said in a statement Wednesday. "MWAA had a chance to cut more than $600 million from the project and chose not to. I am disappointed and share the concerns of state and the local partners.  Everything possible needs to be done to keep costs down on this project.”

State officials expressed concern about the possibility of higher tolls to finance the underground project. In 2008, Virginia transferred responsibility for the Dulles Toll Road from VDOT to MWAA to help pay for the Dulles Metrorail Project.

Supporters of an underground station said it will work more efficiently and preserve views of the historic airport terminal.

MWAA members said they have taken steps to keep costs down, including a revised design of the station and tunnel, educed tunnel length and depth, a different excavation method, getting air conditioning from an existing airport facility, and an above-ground electrical substation. Modifications make this plan $330 million cheaper than the original 2005 underground station design.

"This has been a very difficult decision for the board as we tried to balance cost considerations with the goal to design an airport station that will serve the region's travelers and airport employees well into the future," Dulles Corridor Committee Chair Mame Reiley said. We think this option best achieves that goal.”

Virginia agreed to pay 25 percent of the cost of the Dulles Metrorail Project.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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