The extension of Washington D.C.’s Metro to the Dulles Airport will finally move forward after years in limbo. The Virginia Dept. of Rail and Public Transportation announced today that it will enter into a $1.6 billion design-build contract with Dulles Transit Partners, LLC, a joint venture between Bechtel, San Francisco, and Washington Group International, Boise, Idaho, for the final design and construction of Phase 1 of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.

Phase 1 consists of 11.6 miles that will extend the Metro into Loudoun County, Virginia. VDRPT will use negotiated price with DTP to submit its request to enter final design in May to the Federal Transit Administration in hopes of receiving a Full Funding Grant Agreement by early 2008. The agreement with DTP makes the total cost of Phase 1 between $2.4 billion and $2.7 billion, a total that keeps it eligible for $900 million in federal funding according to cost effectiveness standards. “Today’s agreement marks the culmination of more than a decade of planning, environmental review and engineering work to advance the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, and it brings us closer to our goal of achieving a Full Funding Grant Agreement,” said DRPT Director Matthew Tucker.

Although this agreement is with VDRPT, the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority will act as client to DTP. MWAA will take control of the Dulles Toll Road from the state and use its revenue to cover much of the state’s 50.2% share of the cost of Phase 1. This arangment arose from a proposal made by MWAA in December 2005, when VDRPT was exploring alternative means of financing the Metro extension. The remaining 16.1% of the project will be covered by a tax on local businesses.

If all goes according to plan, DTP will begin construction on the project in the fall of this year on a plan that includes the much-maligned tunnel through Tysons Corner. The price of the tunnel had become prohibitory, however DTP expects to be able to deliver the entire project, including the tunnel, for an amount acceptable to the federal government.