If Dulles Railís second phase can be equated to a football game, the project is trailing by a touchdown late in the fourth quarter and facing a 4th-and-goal from the 8-yard line.
After more than a decade of planning, Dulles Railís primary stakeholders — the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Virginia and Fairfax and Loudoun counties — still canít seem to agree on the color of grass. Virginia lawmakers arenít interested in helping pay for rail; Loudoun Countyís new board views rail as a bottomless money pit; and MWAA officials seem to think a union labor contract and $17 tolls will solve all the worldís problems.
Phase 2 construction, which would run from Reston to Ashburn, was scheduled to start early next spring. Now, if it happens at all, the first shovel likely wonít hit the ground until late 2014 or early 2015.
Delaying the start of a new house for a year can cost a contractor tens of thousands of dollars. Delaying the start of an 11-mile rail line for 18 months likely would cost several hundred million.
Everyone, it seems, owns a piece of this debacle. Railís most vocal proponents view the projectís cost overruns with all the urgency of an overdue library book. Rail opponents, on the other hand, have adopted a shotgun approach, arguing against every aspect of the project without offering up a single constructive idea or solution.
For more than a year, there also have been recurring attempts to turn funding for Dulles Rail into a Republican vs. Democrat fight.
It isnít. It remains an upstate vs. downstate, suburban vs. rural dispute now complicated by the fact that much of Northern Virginia is represented by those remaining Democrats who survived the 2011 elections.
But Dulles Rail seems to have picked up additional opponents lately. Unfortunately, several are influential, statewide figures now attempting to align themselves with far-right voters by trying to minimize a project that crosses political lines in this area.
Perhaps the poison pill was the project labor agreement provision. It remains unfair to Virginia business, and we support those working for its removal. Predictably, a few too many have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. If PLAs are involved, they have no interest in supporting the project — and itís Dulles Airport, Fairfax and Loudoun that lose as a result.
In a conversation with the Washington Post, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell expressed his surprise at how important the issue was to state Democrats, referring to it as ďone 11.4-mile railroad in one area of the state.Ē
Well, to begin with McDonnell, itís not a railroad. Light rail is entirely different.
And thatís not a mistake the typically tone-perfect McDonnell tends to make. It appears to us a conscious attempt to rationalize his abandonment of the project, and minimize the citizens of Fairfax and Loudoun counties — the ones already paying more than our fair share to state coffers.
During his campaign for governor, ďNorthern Virginiaís OwnĒ McDonnell stood staunchly behind the project, noting its importance to the region. This was his message on the campaign trail, and it was his message during his meeting with local media. He never has gone into depth about where the 180-degree turnaround on rail originated.
McDonnell isnít alone. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a McLean native and former state senator from Centreville, has been widely quoted as saying Dulles Rail is a land-use issue rather than a transportation issue.
As a matter of fact, itís both — as he well knows. He tends to avoid the economic development aspect in his argument. As a land-use issue, itís one that has been planned around for decades.
Although statements from McDonnell, Cuccinelli and other Republican leaders might lead some to think Dulles Rail is a purely partisan issue, itís important to remember the project largely was shepherded through several key hurdles by former Sen. John Warner (R) and U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R).
During the 2011 election, the vast majority of candidates — Democrats and Republicans alike — stood behind the project. Some questioned the funding mechanism, but nearly all committed to working to fund the project.
Even if some elected officials have been less vocal about the project, the hope here is they continue working behind the scenes to secure fair funding and pump some life into a much-needed project.