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Eyes On Virginia For Additional Silver Line Funding

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When the Virginia state legislature convenes in January, supporters of the Silver Line rail project will be looking to lawmakers in Richmond to help fund the $6 billion endeavor.

The Republican-majority in the House of Delegates and the administration of Gov. Bob McDonnell have been criticized for approving only $150 million for the second phase of the Silver Line's construction.

While the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is cautiously optimistic a federal loan will come through by the end of this year, it may not be enough to significantly reduce projected toll rate increases on the Dulles Toll Road, which are currently set to finance 75 percent of Phase 2's nearly $3 billion cost. So eyes are focusing on Virginia's legislature.

Republican House Del. Barbara Comstock, who represents Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, says more Silver Line funding will be on the table, but made no promises.

"There are those of us who are open to adding more, and that is in the mix," she says. "We are all looking at that because obviously we all want to get the tolls down."

Comstock says the fight over finances in Washington is affecting finances in Richmond.

"Virginia is under this whole cloud of what is Washington going to do with these fiscal cliff issues," she says. "We are going to have a huge exit of money and capital from northern Virginia because you are going to have huge tax increases one way or the other."

The delegate says lawmakers have also been concerned with stories of mismanagement at the agency running the Silver Line project. She says the legislature wants to be confident any additional funding will be spent wisely.

Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood has made clear the airports authority has to clean up its act.

"They know that things need to change," says LaHood, as he testified before Congress earlier this month. "And they also know that if they are going to get Phase 2 funded, if they are going to get a TIFIA loan from DOT, things have to be done correctly."

TIFIA is a program that provides funding for major transportation projects through the Department of Transportation.

In the meantime, the first toll increases on the Dulles Toll Road take effect Jan. 1.

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