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FAQs on the Dulles Metro station
April 2011

Q. What plan did the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority approve for the Metro station at Dulles International Airport?

A. On April 6, 2011, the MWAA Board of Directors approved a less-costly version of the underground Metro station for Dulles International Airport than the plan originally approved by all of the regional partners in 2005.  MWAA is committed to delivering the best possible project at the lowest possible cost and is working to find further cost savings throughout the planning and implementation phases of the project.


Q. Why did MWAA approve the underground station plan for Dulles Airport? Isn’t that more expensive than an aerial station that was also under consideration?

A.  During planning in 2005, all of the partners voted on the underground station as the Locally Preferred Alternative. The underground station is closer to the Airport, and its users will not be exposed to the elements while awaiting trains.  Those are major considerations for airport users in selecting what mode of ground transportation to use.  And it preserves the architectural vision of the masterful Eero Saarinen that has made Dulles a design icon worldwide.  There is no question that cost is also a critical factor which is why the Board approved an underground option that is much less expensive than the original proposal – saving some $330 million vs. the original plan. MWAA is committed to finding further cost savings for the project as the plan moves forward.  The approved plan will make Dulles an intermodal transportation hub, similar to other world-class international gateway airports.


Q. Why does the new underground plan cost less than the original plan?

A.  Our project engineers saved money in the new underground station plan by revising the tunnel length and depth,  proposing a different construction method for excavation, providing air conditioning from an existing airport facility and moving the required electrical substation to an above ground location. The Board is continuing to look for additional savings from elsewhere in the Dulles rail project.


Q. How will this decision affect the current schedule/plan for the tolls? Do you have a new schedule?

A. This decision does not affect the current approved toll rate schedule through 2012, which includes a scheduled 25 cents mainline toll increase for January 2012.   New future projected toll rates required to support the final cost estimate of the Dulles Rail project will be established after additional traffic and revenue studies are completed in late 2011 or early 2012.


Q. Even if the modified underground plan costs significantly less than the original plan, it still will cost more than an aerial station. Where will the additional money come from?

A.  Based on the agreement between the local funding partners, 4.8 percent of the cost would be allocated to Loudoun County, 16.1 percent to Fairfax County, and 4.1 percent to the Airports Authority.  The remaining 75 percent would be paid from proceeds from Dulles Toll Road revenue bonds and any other funding sources secured for the Dulles Rail Project.


Q.  Will the Airport metro station construction impact the airport operations?

A.  Most of the excavation will be done by tunnel boring machines that will have minimal impact to airport operations.  The station cut and cover construction will temporarily affect daily and valet parking.


Q. Does the Airports Authority have experience with construction projects similar to the proposed underground metro station at Dulles Airport?

A. The proposed Metro Station at Dulles is an underground station with tunnel approaches and is similar to the AeroTrain people mover recently built on airport property. The AeroTrain tunnels are the same size as the proposed rail tunnel and were bored through the same type of rock that we expect to encounter on the approach routes to the Airport. The AeroTrain tunnels were constructed at competitive industry prices. We anticipate a similarly competitive bidding process when the bid packages for Phase 2 elements are introduced. The proposed cut and cover method for building the rail station is commonly used for underground facilities and has lower costs and schedule risks.


Q. Who was in charge of the original project planning?

A. The project has been discussed since Dulles Airport opened in 1962. However, the origins of the current project can be traced to the late 1990s when various political entities and individuals worked to spur construction of this connection to Dulles Airport.  A key milestone occurred in July 1998 when the Commonwealth of Virginia created the Dulles Corridor Task Force that included representatives of the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the Commonwealth Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Fairfax and Loudoun counties, the town of Herndon, the city of Falls Church, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, Northern Virginia Planning District Commission and the Federal Highway Administration. As those plans developed, DRPT was in charge, while working closely with the Airports Authority, Fairfax and Loudoun counties, Herndon and WMATA, which was and remains the technical adviser. All of these entities approved what became the Locally Preferred Alternative, and Loudoun, Fairfax, DRPT and the Airports Authority emerged as funding partners.


Q. What was the original plan for Dulles Rail? Is the Authority now building that alignment?

A.  During the Draft Environmental Statement process, several alternative alignments for the rail line were evaluated along with a Bus Rapid Transit option and a “no-build” alternative. Eventually, what became known as the Locally Preferred Alternative emerged with four stations in Tyson’s Corner, along with seven other stations – Wiehle Avenue, Reston Parkway, Herndon-Monroe, Route 28, Dulles Airport, Route 606, Ashburn (Route 772). The alignment included above ground rail and a short tunnel connecting Routes 123 and 7 in Tyson’s and a tunnel alignment and underground station at Dulles Airport. The Locally Preferred Alternative was approved in 2002 by Fairfax, Loudoun, Herndon, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the Airports Authority and WMATA.  Amendments to the original plan were made when the alignment along Route 7 in Tyson’s was moved from the south side of Route 7 to the median of Route 7 as a cost-savings measure following a public hearing in spring 2006.


Q. Why did the Authority reject the above ground station at Dulles – the so-called aerial alternative that would have been less expensive?

A. The on-airport station is only one component of Phase 2 costs, and the cost differential between the aerial and underground stations is less than 10% of total Phase 2 project costs – and less than 5% of total Dulles Metrorail project costs. The Authority believes that the short- and long-term benefits of a closer, more customer friendly airport station are worth the investment.  There were several constraints associated with the aerial station option that led a majority of the Board to reject it. At 1,150 feet, the distance to the Main Terminal was viewed as too far for passengers with baggage to traverse, especially because wheeled baggage carts cannot be used on moving sidewalks.  In addition, there would have been no accommodations for checked baggage at the rail station.  An outdoor station and track represents a reduced level of customer service.


Q. Why is the project being built in two phases?

A. In December 2002, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) told the Commonwealth that due to federal funding limitations, the project could not be funded as a single project. FTA suggested splitting it into phases. Working with the project partners, the Commonwealth Department of Rail and Public Transportation divided the project into Phase 1 and Phase 2.


Q. Did the costs for Phase 1 change over time?

A.  The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation used an initial planning estimate of $1.8 billion for Phase 1.  Over the course of the planning process, cost estimates ranged as high as $3.4 billion.  The final budget for Phase 1, which was adopted after preliminary engineering was completed, is $2.7 billion.


Q. Now that MWAA is near the end of preliminary engineering, how will the financing plan change?

A. The overall financial plan for the Rail Project does not change.   The funding agreements previously negotiated among the Airports Authority, Fairfax County and Loudon County cover such changes in circumstances with respect to funding partner percentages.  Future toll adjustments will depend on many factors and new future projected toll rates will likely be established after additional traffic and revenue studies are completed in late 2011 or early 2012.   The timing and amount of future debt issuance will depend in part on conditions in the capital markets in the future.


Q. When will Phase 2 be completed?

A.  The work on Phase 2 is estimated to be completed by 2017.


Q. How will the construction contract procurement of Phase 2 contribute to potential cost savings?

A. Having multiple procurement packages encourages maximum competition, which increases the potential for receiving the most competitive price proposals. Each solicitation will be advertised with a price-based award policy and the contract will be awarded to the lowest price qualified offer. Each contract will also include a value engineering clause that will give the successful contractor the opportunity to submit cost savings ideas.


Q.  Are there contractors interested in bidding the Phase 2 project?

A. Yes, the construction industry and a number of contractors have expressed interest in bidding all or portions of the project.


Q. How many contracts will be out for bid on Phase 2?

A. One large package will include the rail alignment/guide-ways, stations, tunnels and control systems.  Separate contract packages would be awarded for the maintenance and storage yard, parking garages, utility relocation and property acquisition.


Q.  What determines the number of contracts that may be bid?

A.  Principally, the nature of the work and its interconnectedness to other project elements.


Q.  What federal funds will you seek?

A.  The Airports Authority will explore all opportunities to secure grants or federal credit assistance for the rail project.