The other partners on the Dulles rail project have granted the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors a 30-day extension on the June deadline to decide whether the county wants to proceed with the second phase of the project.
The project will cost between $3.2 billion to $3.3 billion, according to cost estimates released earlier this month. If Fairfax and Loudoun counties independently construct the Route 28 station and the parking garages at the Phase 2 stations, then the core cost of the project drops to between $2.7 billion and $2.8 billion.
Fairfax and Loudoun counties originally had 90 days to decided whether or not they want to proceed with the project, with a June 4 deadline. Loudoun now has until July 4 to weigh in.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is overseeing construction of the 11.4-mile rail segment from Reston to Washington Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County. The $2.6 billion first phase, from the Orange Line in Falls Church to Tysons Corner and Reston, is expected to be completed next year.
Several Loudoun supervisors publicly have voiced strong objections to the rail project, primarily in regard to its cost and financing plan, and they want the county to pull out of the agreement.
Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio, a Republican representing the Sterling area, called the project “an economic disaster.”
“There’s a better, more efficient economic plan with less debt,” he said.
Earlier this month, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York (I) requested an extended deadline to give newer members of his board a chance to learn about the rail project.
This week, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board of Directors agreed to grant the extension.
The move does put some other work on hold, namely the planned issuance of the request for qualifications for contractors to bid on the second phase construction contract, according to Michael Curto, chairman of the airports board.
Curto said the bidding process would start after “Loudoun County has had time to review in depth their participation in the project.”
The airports board also postponed a discussion scheduled for Wednesday on the process for setting future toll rates. They were considering beginning the public comment portion of the toll-setting process for 2013 and beyond in June and July, after the original opt-out deadline for Fairfax and Loudoun counties.
For its part, Fairfax County staged a series of public meetings about the rail project during the past two weeks, culminating in a public hearing on Tuesday.
Many residents continued to express concerns about the effects the project will have on toll rates on the Dulles Toll Road, as much of the project cost is planned to be funded through bonds backed by tolls.
The Fairfax board will officially make its decision about the rail project at its next meeting, April 10, but is expected to move ahead with the project.
County officials have indicated in the past they still could build the second leg of the rail line if Loudoun pulls out; it just would not include the two stations in Loudoun County, making the Route 28 station the likely terminus for commuters not going to the airport.
However, Loudoun’s withdrawal would require a renegotiation of project funding terms, as well as some potential engineering changes to the project.
Loudoun Times-Mirror Staff Writer Hannah Hager contributed to this report.