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Groups demand a cheaper Dulles rail project

Thursday - 6/23/2011, 4:19pm  ET

Michelle Basch, wtop.com

WASHINGTON -- Several Northern Virginia business groups say the Dulles rail project is getting too expensive, and they're calling for urgent cost-cutting.

The second phase is now estimated to cost $3.5 billion, up from $2.5 billion initially.

Groups representing 5,000 businesses that employ more than half a million people sent a letter to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is in charge of the project.

One thing the letter calls for is an above-ground Metro station at Dulles Airport, which would be $300 million cheaper than the current plan for an underground station.

"The option also involves lower construction risk, and it can be built in six to 12 months faster," says Eileen Curtis, president of the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce.

These groups, which collectively call themselves the "Silver Line Phase 2 Coalition," have a few other suggestions:

  • Get rid of a mandatory Project Labor Agreement for phase two, which the coalition says will drive up costs.

  • Shrink plans for the Dulles Airport rail yard and look for other ways to finance it.

  • Pursue more agreements like the public - private partnership that's paying for a Silver Line parking garage under construction in Reston.

  • Ask for more money from the federal government and state of Virginia.

Too much money is at stake, the group says.

"We have come too far, fought too hard, and have debated too long to allow expense challenges to disrupt this completion. This project cannot be allowed to fail," says Kurt Kruase with the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance.

The Silver Line Phase 2 Coalition includes the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce, the Dulles Corridor Rail Association, the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, the Associated Builders and Contrators Virginia Chamber, and the Washignton Airports Task Force.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)