Plan to extend Metro to Dulles airport delayed

Deliberations over using a tunnel or an above-ground rail delayed construction on Metro’s extension to Dulles International Airport another year.

The planned 23-mile extension runs through Tysons Corner, Reston, Herndon, Dulles airport and east Loudoun County in Northern Virginia. Construction is expected to break ground anywhere from fall 2007 to early 2008, pending a $9 million “full funding grant agreement” from the state, said Marcia McAllister, communications manager of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.

The plan will occur in two phases: the first extension will go from the East Falls Church station to Wiehle Avenue in Reston, Va., and the second will run to Dulles Airport.

“We anticipate opening the first phase to service in 2012, and the second phase will be open before 2015,” McAllister said.

McAllister said the project was delayed a year because of renewed interest to run the rail through a tunnel instead of on aerial tracks. Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, had an independent panel from the American Association of Civil Engineers survey the tunnel plan.

The tunnel would have cost anywhere from $200 million to $600 million more than the aerial track plan, which has a total cost of approximately $4.2 billion. Kaine rejected the tunnel plan in September over cost concerns, and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation resumed work on the extension.

Construction cannot start until Virginia’s transportation department gives control of the project to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, the agency in charge of Dulles and Ronald Reagan National Airport airport. The switch, requested by MWAA in May, is expected in early spring 2007, McAllister said.

Senior Morgan Corr, who introduced the Colonial Coach program last year as the SA’s executive vice president, said getting to Dulles is not an easy undertaking. Corr worked with former SA Senator and alumnus Ben Traverse to develop the project in spring 2005 as a result of their own difficulties getting to the airport.

“The Metro extension to the airport is a necessary addition to the Metro services,” Corr wrote in an e-mail. “This demonstrates just how great a need there is for better transportation to Dulles International Airport, and it will relieve some of the burden currently placed on travelers.”

Corr said he thinks the Colonial Coach will continue to be a popular program even when the Metro extension is finished.

“I’m certain that the Student Association will re-evaluate the Colonial Coach program once the Metro extension has been fully completed and implemented,” he said. “Even once that is done, I am certain that there will still be student demand for alternative routes to Dulles.”

Several students said the extension to Dulles would be helpful to GW students.

“(The extension) would have helped me a lot. It’s probably about $50 cheaper than a taxi and $15 cheaper than a shuttle,” graduate student David Johnson said.

Senior Gordon Yu said the extension was a good idea, especially since travelers taking long or tiring flights may not be alert enough to drive safely. He said he got into his first car accident following a flight back from China because he did not get much sleep on the plane.

“Last time I was back from China, people coming off the plane were really tired and worn from travel,” he said.

Yu said increased access to stores in Tysons Corner, part of a major shopping mall, would not make much of a difference to GW students.

“I think GW students already have good access to Pentagon City by Metro,” Yu said of the mall four stops down on the Blue Line. “I’m not sure if Tysons Corner would be a big deal.”

Students can commute to Dulles Airport by taking a car or taxi or by taking the Metro to West Falls Church and then transferring to the Washington Flyer shuttle. Also, the Student Association will run two buses – one to Dulles and one to Baltimore-Washington International Airport – before Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks.

Colonial Coach, will run two days before Thanksgiving break, three before winter break and two before spring break, said sophomore Kara Eusebio, deputy chief of staff to SA President Lamar Thorpe. The free shuttle bus leaves the Marvin Center at 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on service days. A spot must be reserved in advance.

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