In a letter to MWAA Board Chairman Charles Snelling, McDonnell said that the station and tunnel alignment, to be located approximately 500 feet from the main terminal, “has, by all accounts, been shown to be the much more expensive alignment through the airport, costing hundreds of millions more than the aerial alignment with relatively minimal positive logistical or aesthetic benefit.”
MWAA selected the underground station, a component of the original 2005 conceptual plan, over a largely above-ground alternative that would have placed locate the airport station approximately 1,000 feet further from the main terminal. The Board determined that a simplified design, cut-and-cover excavation, and other changes would halve the projected $600 million cost of the tunnel and station, and that subsequent cost savings would further narrow the price differential.
The decision sparked an immediate outcry from longtime project supporter Rep. Frank Wolf (R), and leaders of local jurisdictions that are financing the $3.5 billion project along with MWAA. The jurisdictions have threatened to withhold their contributions unless the Board reverses its decision.
They and Wolf have also criticized MWAA for requiring a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) in Phase 2 construction contracts, a move they claim will only make the project more expensive with no increase in quality or efficiency.
McDonnell’s letter echoed their sentiments about the tunnel decision, sharing their surprise and disappointment, but also the hope “that upon further reflection, the board would come to the more fiscally sound decision to pursue the aerial alignment.”
On his weekly DC-area radio show Tuesday, McDonnell said that he's asked Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and D.C. Mayor Vince Gray to press MWAA to reverse itself and opt for an above-ground terminal.
Despite the seemingly near-universal opposition to the tunnel, MWAA is standing by its decision. The agency has invited local leaders to discuss the project, and the opportunity to present its case for going underground.