Virginia transportation officials announced a long-awaited contract yesterday for the first portion of the rail extension to Dulles International Airport.
But the project's exact price and timeline still are up in the air.
The $1.6 billion design and construction contract with Dulles Transit Partners, a consortium led by Bechtel Corp., puts the total cost of the project's first phase in the range of $2.4 billion to $2.7 billion, said Matthew Tucker, director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. He said he is confident the price will be low enough for the project to receive crucial federal funding.
"We are within months of . . . finally putting a shovel in the ground to provide a critical connection and improve mobility ultimately through Tysons Corner and to the Dulles airport," Tucker said in a conference call with reporters.
But if and when that shovel goes in depends on the Federal Transit Administration, which state officials are counting on to provide $900 million toward the cost. To get that money, the project needs to meet the FTA's cost-effectiveness standards.
Tucker said the state hopes to receive federal funding early next year, so that construction could begin in the spring.
But the FTA said yesterday that it has no current timeline. It said federal and state officials will have to work out a new schedule for the funding process because the contract was completed three months later than initially projected.
The agency also said it will obtain an additional, independent review of the project budget - an extra step that could cause further delays. It said the review is necessary because the project is so expensive.
The entire extension to Dulles would be 23 miles long. The first 11.6-mile segment would extend Metrorail from the East Falls Church station through Fairfax County's busy Tysons Corner section and on to Reston.
The $1.6 billion contract announced yesterday covers an estimated 59 percent of everything needed for the first segment. It does not include the cost of rail cars, land, utility relocation, streetscaping or unforeseen factors such as an increase in commodities prices.
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