After $210-million in value engineering, the proposed $5-billion, 23-mile extension of Washington, D.C.'s metrorail system to Dulles International Airport is back on track.

The Federal Transit Authority announced April 30 that the project met sufficient criteria to move forward to final design—a reversal of FTA's previous position. The U.S. Department of Transportation raised several technical, financial and management concerns in January, and said the project was “insufficient to advance” as proposed.

Key stakeholders, including the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and the State of Virginia, have since worked to bring the project's $2.6 billion first phase in line with USDOT criteria.

“Everyone involved in this proposal has worked hard to make the good faith changes needed,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters. “Indeed, it is a much better project today than it was in January. Today's action is the first step toward final approval, but it should by no means be seen as a guarantee of full funding.”

Among the sticking points was the project's poorly rated cost-effectiveness. Federal Transit Administrator James S. Simpson said the project has since undergone $210 million in value engineering. Among the cuts were $20 million in savings to stations, such as reducing the length of canopies, and eliminating a $7 million provision for a future station along the planned route. A $99 million road improvement project on neighboring State Route 7 was also removed.