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LaHood 'Optimistic' About Silver Line Federal Loan

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U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood praised the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority for improving its hiring and contracting practices. LaHood said this progress makes him optimistic the agency will receive a federal loan to fund the $5.5 billion Silver Line project.
(Martin Di Caro)
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood praised the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority for improving its hiring and contracting practices. LaHood said this progress makes him optimistic the agency will receive a federal loan to fund the $5.5 billion Silver Line project.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he's optimistic a federal loan for Metro's Silver Line rail project will be approved "sooner rather than later."

After swearing in two presidential appointees to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board of directors Wednesday, LaHood praised the agency for improving its hiring and contracting practices. A 2012 federal audit revealed questionable practices inside the authority.

"We are celebrating the start of what I would call a new day," LaHood said.

LaHood said the agency's progress leaves him optimistic MWAA will receive a federal loan to help finance the $5.5 billion Silver Line construction. This progress is a factor in determining whether MWAA will receive a loan to finance the Silver Line through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, or TIFIA, program.

"I would say right now things look good," he said. LaHood has final say on when the loan will be approved.

WAMU reporter Martin Di Caro asked LaHood how much money would be in the federal loan.

"You're the only one that would really care about that, and I'm not going to get into the details about the loan application," LaHood replied.

But drivers on the Dulles Toll Road might care because their fees largely finance the rail project. More federal funding for the Silver Line would slow the rate of toll increases.

MWAA chief executive Jack Potter said he is "very positive of a good outcome" of the loan application. Potter is also lobbying Virginia lawmakers to contribute more Silver Line money.

"How the commonwealth generates those dollars is strictly commonwealth business," Potter said.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has proposed using $300 million in sales tax revenue for the rail project. The plan faces opposition in the General Assembly.

Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton said McDonnell's package is the leading proposal to get money into Phase II of the Silver Line.

"We are aggressively working with the General Assembly to secure those funds," Connaughton said.

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