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Securing federal funds for the second phase of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project looks “very promising,” Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton said Tuesday.

“We’re working with [the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA)] and [Loudoun and Fairfax] counties on the TIFIA loan. We think that looks very, very promising,” Connaughton said at a Dulles Area Transportation Association (DATA) event in Herndon. “Also, we’re looking at some options at the state level about the opportunity we may have to put some additional money into the project.”

The TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) program provides federal credit assistance through direct loans, loan guarantees and standby lines of credit to help finance transportation projects of national and regional significance.

State and federal officials have previously mentioned the possibility of TIFIA funding for Dulles rail, but Connaughton’s comments Tuesday were arguably the strongest indication the federal dollars will be allocated to the $5.5 billion infrastructure project.

Phase two of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, often called Dulles rail, will extend Metro service to Dulles airport and into Loudoun County.

MWAA, which operates the D.C. area’s two major airports, is overseeing construction of the project.

In October, Fairfax County Administrator Edward Long, along with MWAA President Jack Potter and Loudoun County Administrator Tim Hemstreet, co-signed a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood requesting TIFIA loan consideration for Dulles rail.

“The project represents a broad-based investment by business, federal, state and local partners,” the letter states, “with regional business partners participating in public-private partnerships, the federal government designating the Dulles Corridor right-of-way and providing $900 million in New Starts program funding, the Commonwealth of Virginia contributing $275 million, and the local funding partners of the Airports Authority, Fairfax and Loudoun counties funding the remaining $4.8 billion, or 80 percent, of the $6.0 billion capital cost of the Project.

“This $4.8 billion in funding will be derived from local Dulles Toll Road users, airport users and county property taxpayers. The $4.8 billion is an extraordinary local commitment for a major project of national significance with widespread public benefits,” the letter states.

Any federal money could go a long way in helping pay down the tolls along the Dulles Toll Road, which are expected to rise to help fund Dulles rail construction.

TIFIA funding would allow the “Airports Authority to better leverage the Dulles Toll Road revenues, thereby enabling a substantial reduction in projected toll rates,” the letter from Hemstreet, Long and Potter states.