Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Loudon Times-Mirror The time is now to push for rail's second phase

The time is now to push for rail's second phase
By Staff

It took nearly 40 years, several billion dollars and more than a few bruised egos, but Metrorail service is finally coming to the Dulles corridor. That point was made official last week when Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, known as MWAA, and U.S. Transportation Department officials finalized a long-awaited deal for $900 million in federal funding.

MWAA, which will manage the 23.2-mile rail extension, is already moving forward on the project's first phase, slated to run from East Falls Church to Reston with four stops in the Tysons Corner area.

Over the next 36 months, Route 7 will be widened to four lanes in each direction and a long, above-ground rail line will split east- and westbound drivers.

If everything goes off without a hitch, trains will begin rolling through Tysons in late 2013.

That's the good news.

Less clear is the timetable for the project's 11.5-mile second phase. Those counting on the "Silver Line" pulling into Dulles Airport by 2020 need the first phase to be delivered on time and within budget.

At the moment, more than a few question marks surround the Reston-to-Loudoun route, which will take at least five years to build, has no set start date and no clear financing plan beyond jacking up fees on the Dulles Toll Road.

We're not suggesting rail won't make it west of Reston in our collective lifetime. It will.

Of more concern at this juncture is the eerie silence we hear whenever rail timelines are discussed in places like Herndon and Ashburn.

The hope here is that rail officials, elected leaders and the local business community will exhibit as much passion, energy and creativity in getting a train to Dulles Airport as they did getting it through Tysons Corner.

Although the rules of this particular game have changed countless times, the original justification for building rail was giving Dulles Airport passengers a transit link to Washington, D.C. It remains one of the few international airports in the world not served by a rail line.

The sooner we can change that, the better.

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