Court deals blow to Metrorail extension

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Jessica Sabbath

The Virginia Supreme Court has given efforts to extend Metrorail to Dulles another setback by reviving a lawsuit against using collections from the Dulles Toll Road for construction.

The lawsuit questions whether Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s decision to transfer the state-owned Dulles Toll Road to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority was constitutional. Kaine made the decision without approval from the General Assembly.

The authority plans to raise tolls for the 23-mile extension of Metrorail to Dulles International Airport.

The lawsuit was filed by the same conservatives who successfully challenged the regional transportation authorities created by the General Assembly last year, according to The Washington Post.

The Supreme Court’s decision reversed a decision by a lower court judge, who ruled the state was protected by sovereign immunity. Now, the case will head back to Circuit Court for trial.

The project is already on shaky ground. The funds from the Dulles Toll Road would be a key portion of the $5.2 billion project. The Federal Transit Administration has said it would give, with conditions, $900 million toward the project.

But those conditions include working with Maryland and Washington, D.C., to fully fund Metro. The system has identified $500 million in unmet needs.

Virginia officials had hoped to have full FTA approval by the end of the year, but the lawsuit could put that in jeopardy.

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