Supporters of the proposed Metrorail extension to Washington Dulles International Airport got a short reprieve this week when Transportation Secretary Mary Peters agreed to wait before issuing her decision about whether or not the project would receive federal funding.
The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, which would give students and travelers a direct public rail route to the airport, experienced a setback last week after Peters and Federal Transit Administration Chief James S. Simpson announced they would not be providing a crucial $900 million in federal tax dollars for the plan, according to The Washington Post.
Thousands of students travel through Dulles every semester. The Metrorail extension would potentially reduce complications associated with changing trains between the Tenleytown-AU Metro station and the airport, according to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s Web site.
Currently, students are forced to switch Metrorail lines at least once, and then board a Metrobus. The new project would require students to change trains only once at Metro Center.
Elliot Hardy, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said the new Metrorail line would facilitate students’ commute between AU and Dulles Airport. The project is overdue, he said.
“They should have done it a long time ago,” Hardy said.
Riding the Metro from the airport while carrying luggage is not difficult and costs less than taking a taxi or a van, according to Stephanie Merwin, a sophomore in College of Arts and Sciences.
“I did try other means of transportation, but Metro is the cheapest,” Merwin said. “It takes the same amount of time.”
In a Jan. 24 letter to Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, D, Simpson cited “cumulative risks and uncertainties,” pertaining to the project’s swelling costs and administrative inabilities on the part of the project managers, as the reason for denying federal funding for the $5 billion project.
Virginia’s state government would carry 70 percent of project costs.
Brandon Juarez, a senior in the CAS, said he believed the federal government is making excuses to avoid funding the project. They should accommodate for passengers who will not be riding the Metro to Dulles as soon as they had hoped.
“As long as they provide shuttle services at least,” Juarez said.
The project’s leaders plan to respond by the end of the week to the Transportation Department’s concerns, according to a statement from Kaine’s office.
“Based on conversations between Secretary Mary Peters and Sen. John Warner on Jan. 26 ... the Commonwealth and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will be responding in writing to the United States Department of Transportation in the very near future,” Gordon Hickey, Kaine’s press secretary, said in the statement.
Tara Hamilton, public affairs manager for the MWAA, said “the very near future” meant this Friday.
The project proposes a 23.1-mile extension of Metrorail into Virginia that would serve 11 new Metro stations on its way to the airport, according to a July 27 report from the Department of Transportation.
The project’s first phase, for which Virginia lawmakers are seeking the funds to build, is scheduled to begin this summer, according to the MWAA Web site. It includes the construction of 11.6 miles of track, starting near Falls Church, as well as five new stations. The project’s second phase would extend the Metro rail to Dulles Airport and would be completed by 2015.