Autumn on Lake Audobon

Autumn on Lake Audobon
Autumn on Lake Audubon, Photo by Alison Kamat

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Welcome aboard: Ray LaHood enters the Silver Line squabble, Editorial, Washington Post, May 30, 2011

AT MIDDAY ON WEDNESDAY, just over a dozen politicians and officials, mostly Virginians, will troop into Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s office, hoping to rescue Metro’s Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport. What’s at stake is one of the largest public infrastructure projects in the country, now in jeopardy of coming unraveled in an increasingly bitter feud over costs and financing. Mr. LaHood, having recently rescued another major project , the modernization of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, from a similarly venomous impasse, has offered to mediate.

That’s a promising sign, and not just because of Mr. LaHood’s deftness as a go-between. Just as important, he has a critical say in the disposition of federal transportation loans, which could be the key to resolving the Silver Line standoff.
Click here for the rest of this WaPo editorial.

COMMENT:  This editorial, like most other recent news and opinion pieces about Phase 2 of the Dulles Metrorail plan, focuses on the tail (the $300 million cost margin between above and below ground station) and not the really ugly dog of Dulles Metrorail cost allocation.  The two key issues are:
  • Whichever station option is picked at Dulles, MWAA is paying a small fraction of the cost of the rail service to the airport at a quarter-billion dollars.  The above ground option costs $600 million, the MWAA-selected mid-lot underground station costs $925 million, and the original beneath-the-terminal station costs more than $1.4 billion.  If MWAA pays for the line and station on its property, it can build any station it wants without burdening the whole of northern Virginia.  
  • Dulles Toll Road (DTR) riders will stuck with the bulk of the bill, driving today's two dollar tolls to more than $19 each way according to recent MWAA statements.   There is no reason for DTR users to be stuck with this bill, especially when most of them will not be able to use Metrorail to reach their destinations.  Many of them will divert to other local roads to travel to work, shop, or entertainment, and our local roads are already clogged.  Of course, the only people not represented at the table when this deal was cut were toll road users.  Local pols, more concerned about protecting their budgets, pawned the burden off on their own residents.
 A new arrangement must be made for payment of construction of the Dulles Metrorail line, and it must begin with MWAA paying its fair share and DTR users not paying the bulk of the tab. 

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