U.S. Transportation Secretary Wants $1.058 Billion Cut From Dulles Metrorail Project
LaHood's July 3 white paper on reducing Dulles Metrorail Phase 2 costs includes aboveground station at airport.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wants Dulles Metrorail stakeholders to cut $1.058 billion from the Phase 2 price tag, and he says that each of the funding partners must make financial sacrifices to keep the project on schedule and affordable.
The July 3 white paper presents LaHood's proposal that was crafted after five closed-door meetings since June 1 with the funding partners, including Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board, state elected leaders and officials in Fairfax and Loudoun counties.
The second phase extends rail from Reston to Dulles International Airport and eastern Loudoun County. LaHood entered the fray as a mediator on June 1 because tensions among the stakeholders reached an all-time high with MWAA after board members decided April 6 to construct a more user-friendly underground station at Dulles Airport, which added more than $500 million to the $3.8 million price tag.
LaHood proposes that MWAA reverse that decision and build an aboveground station at the airport to save $562 million, but add $10 million in station amenities such as a windscreen and weatherization protection for the aboveground station.
LaHood also proposes the following cuts to get the total cost of Phase 2 at about $2.77 billion:
- Reduce yard and shop facility at Dulles airport: $81 million
- Fairfax County becomes responsible for the Route 28 station: $136 million
- Loudoun and Fairfax counties become responsible for five parking facilities: $235 million
- Change canopy design for Phase 1: $15 million
- Use steel structures instead of concrete: $35 million
- Change the finishes, such as roofing, flooring and platforms for the stations: $4 million
LaHood said an additional $200 million can be cut, but he won't know if it is possible until August. Those cuts are:
- MWAA use value engineering: up to $75 million
- MWAA, Loudoun and Fairfax counties donate property instead of buying the right of way needed for the project: $53 million
- Reduce by two the number of traction power substations: $34 million
- Fix engineering and design estimate discrepancies for traction power substations: $15 million
- Reduce number of railcars, pending WMATA rail fleet plan: up to $24 million
LaHood also notes that MWAA's request for $1.7 billion in federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans was more than five times the average of any of the other 40 requests and it won't be possible to honor it. However, he says he will focus on getting a TIFIA loan for Loudoun and Fairfax counties to entice public-private investment to help pay for the five parking garages and the Route 28 station.
"Given the difference in credit worthiness between the counties and MWAA, the limited amount of TIFIA subsidy available can go a great deal farther in lowering Phase 2 costs if directed to these project elements," LaHood wrote, adding that MWAA can still apply for some assistance.
LaHood said Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton and Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation Director Thelma Drake have discussed ways to provide additional assistance, including extending the terms of the Dulles Toll Road lease to MWAA and credit assistance from the state's new State Infrastructure Bank.
"Both of these mechanisms hold the potential for easing the financing requirements of the project and the burden on toll road users," LaHood wrote.
The main reason why state elected leaders and officials in Loudoun and Fairfax counties protested MWAA's decision to build an underground station was because the cost increase means that tolls for the Dulles Toll Road would increase.
MWAA owns the toll road and 75 percent of the second phase will be paid back with tolls. Estimates are that tolls could eventually be more than $10 to $15 one way if the funding partners cannot agree to these cuts. Phase 2 costs are split among the funding partners: Fairfax is responsible for 16.1 percent; Loudoun pays 4.8 percent; and MWAA pays 4.1 percent more without using tolls.
To read more details about the proposed cuts, view the .PDF file attatched to this article.