Plans to build a 24-mile rail transit spur to northern Virginia's Washington Dulles International Airport have moved forward, with approval by Virginia's Commonwealth Transportation Board. The board's vote on Dec. 19 was unanimous. The project's cost was estimated about two years ago at $3 billion.Click here to view map

“Today’s action by the CTB is a significant step toward the actual development of an extended Metrorail line,” said Virginia Transportation Secretary Whittington Clement.
But major hurdles remain, especially lining up funding from financially strapped state and county governments and gaining approval from the Federal Transit Administration.

"Rail in the Dulles corridor is not dead," said Karen Rae, director of the Virginia Dept. of Rail and Public Transportation. But relief for the region's long-suffering motorists won't come quickly "Hopefully," Rae said, "they'll see [the completed project] in their lifetimes."

The next step would be a final environmental impact statement, expected to be complete in the spring and a record of decision on the EIS in the summer.

The project would be a 24-mile, 11-station extension of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's Orange Line. It would run to the Tysons Corner retail and office complex then out to Dulles airport and beyond. Corey Hill, the rail and public transportation agency's regional manager for northern Virginia, says the line would include aerial, at-grade and underground sections.

Primarily because of the cost of the project, "We do agree that there needs to be phasing," says Rae, something she says federal officials have advocated. If the funding and federal approvals come through, part of the project could open in less than 10 years, she says.

Rae says she recently received approval to negotiate a contract for preliminary engineering with a "public-private partnership" that includes a unit of Bechtel Group and the Washington Group. She says that preliminary engineering could cost $50 million to $60 million.