Funding Metro biggest obstacle for bringing rail to Dulles

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Jessica Sabbath

Gov.  Timothy M. Kaine admitted Wednesday that fully funding the D.C. Metro system’s needs will be the biggest hurdle to landing federal money to bring rail to Washington Dulles International Airport.

“Of the various concerns that are out there, the funding of Metro is the most challenging,” Kaine told reporters Wednesday afternoon during a conference call.

Federal transportation officials sent a letter to members of Congress on Wednesday saying state officials had met their requests for details on cost efficiency, ridership and construction. It was a sharp reversal from a letter in January, which said the project did not meet standards to receive federal money. Now the project can begin its final design stage.

In Wednesday’s letter, however, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters included stipulations in order for Virginia to receive $900 million in federal money for the project.

One of the conditions is that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and Virginia prove that the system can remain operable. She noted that Metro officials have identified $489 million worth of urgent capital projects.

Kaine said during the conference call that the General Assembly would need to replace the $50 million that would have been raised by regional taxes imposed by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. The authority’s taxing powers were ruled unconstitutional by the Virginia Supreme Court. The governor is expected to call for legislators to hold a special session on transportation in late June.

The $50 million would have gone toward Metro’s operations budget, not capital needs. Kaine said Virginia would “need to pull together other partners on the bigger issue of Metro funding.”

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