News and notes from Reston (tm).

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Metro Silver Line: All that clapping worked!

After basically being left for dead, much like a Metrorail car in an Orange Line tunnel during a track fire, Metro's awesome Silver Line extension through the wonders of Tysons Tegucigalpa, Reston, Dulles and the foreclosed particleboard housing beyond Loudoun County has made a stunning comeback.

Federal transportation officials are planning to approve the proposed 23-mile extension of Metrorail to Dulles International Airport in a letter to Congress today, the officials told local and state authorities yesterday.

Several officials with knowledge of the decision said the $5 billion project had finally met the Federal Transit Administration's standards for cost efficiency, construction and expected ridership. The approval would reverse an opinion from the FTA issued in January that said rail to Dulles did not meet the criteria.

"This is a critical step," one of the officials said. "Two months ago, everybody was writing the project's obituary. Now, thanks to everybody putting their swords away and making this thing work, the project is moving forward again."
Oh, yeah... right. Remember all that hilarious infighting after the initial decision was made, before Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters became BFFs?
Angry exchanges among local and federal officials included an accusation from the FTA that Virginia and the airports authority had ignored signs that the project had been in trouble for months. Project boosters accused the FTA of seeking to kill the Dulles rail project because of the Bush administration's preference for private investment in public infrastructure. Rumors circulated that the FTA sought to force Virginia to sell the Dulles Toll Road to private entities to finance the rail line, and the FTA continued to say that the project's cost was unacceptably high and expected ridership too low.

Officials with knowledge of the federal decision said Peters was behind the reversal despite objections from the FTA staff, which she oversees. Several sources said they might never know what caused federal regulators to ease up after coming down so hard on the project.
Maybe they just saw all the orange cones strewn across Tysons Tegucigalpa and decided what the hey.

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