BRT: Not your grandfather’s bus

Dulles Metro Rail Cheaper Without Loudoun

By Liz Essley

The Washington Examiner

Dec. 20, 2011

Loudoun County officials wondering whether they should pull out of the second phase of the Dulles Metro rail project were told Tuesday that they would save hundreds of millions of dollars if they did. But if Loudoun wanted to replace the rail line with a cheaper bus system, most of those savings would be lost.

The second phase of the Metro rail project includes two stops in Loudoun County. Eliminating those would cut $530 million from the second phase’s $2.8 billion cost, the Dulles Corridor Advisory Committee learned Tuesday.

But those savings would be greatly reduced by the cost of a rapid bus system Loudoun could consider installing to shuttle commuters to Metro’s new Silver Line, the committee was told. The buses and dedicated lanes would cost between $270 million and $315 million, Dulles Metro rail project director Pat Nowakowski said.

Loudoun County asked the committee to discuss the possibility of cutting the rail line short because the county board now has seven newly elected members for whom the nearly $6 billion Dulles rail project may not be a done deal. Several of them questioned the rising costs in their campaigns this year, and one returning supervisor recently voted against moving forward with the project.

“We’ve got seven new members of the board,” said Loudoun Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York. “There’s obviously concerns about the cost of anything we do as a county.”

Fairfax and Loudoun counties will have 90 days to commit to the project once preliminary engineering is complete in March.

“We have basically three options before us,” York said. “One is doing nothing. The second is supporting the current plan for phase two in rail, or the third is to draw back and look at doing bus rapid transit.”

Nowakowski said he expected Fairfax and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority would go forward with the rail to the Dulles International Airport even if Loudoun opted for bus.

“We’ve done nothing more other than a very high-level, broad look at this type of thing,” he said. “It was just trying to consider what are the issues, what are the concerns, what are the problems, how would this work.”

lessley@washingtonexaminer.comRead more at the Washington Examiner:

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