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Despite Comeback, Rail Plan Still Faces Hurdles

The Dulles rail project, a central artery in Northern Virginia's transportation plans, came back from the dead today, but remains in intensive care.

The Federal Transit Administration signaled that the program to build the Metrorail line through Tysons Corner can now advance, despite the FTA's lingering concerns with the management and financing of the project.

"We have sent the required 10-day notification to Congress that we intend to move the project into the Final Design stage of FTA's New Starts Process," FTA Administrator James Simpson said in a statement. "FTA will commit $158.7 million to use toward completion of a financial plan, construction plans, detailed engineering specifications and cost estimates, and other technical requirements."

Here's a list of what changed since January on the FTA's scorecard.

Here's the list of "buts":

The FTA says it won't commit any money for construction until a set of issues are resolved.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which manages Dulles and National and is in charge of building the rail extension, must
ensure it has enough money to cover risks, demonstrate the project can proceed on schedule and on budget and provide sufficient oversight for what the FTA says is "the single largest design-build contract in the history of the New Starts program."

Metro, which will operate the line once it's complete, must convince the FTA that the repair needs of the entire Metro system can be addressed despite expanding its rail lines by almost a quarter.

In his statement, the FTA administrator noted that he and Transportation Secretary Mary Peters had a direct hand in reaching the decision on this project, which is crucial to the future of Tysons and the Dulles corridor.

"It is our hope that the project will continue down this path toward success and deliver a vital and new rail capacity for the region," Simpson said.

Here's a link to Secretary Peters's blog, on which Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) also comments about the FTA decision.

See also the story by Amy Gardner and Lena H. Sun.

By Robert Thomson  |  April 30, 2008; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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