MS. REBECCA SHEIR
And now we get to the root of a debate that's been raging here in the D.C. region. Where to put a metro station at Dulles airport. It's our weekly transportation segment, From A to B.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
And here to sort all of this out for is WAMU's transportation reporter, David Schultz. Hi, David.
MR. DAVID SCHULTZ
So we've been hearing a lot about this metro station. Should it be above ground, should it be underground? What's all of this really all about?
Well, this all centers on that new metro line they're building in Northern Virginia, the silver line as some people are calling it. It would begin at the East Falls Church station on the orange line and go up through Tyson's corner, through Reston and Herndon and then on to Dulles and beyond.
Who are the main players in this debate?
Well, this is really between two groups. On one side you have the Metropolitan Washington airports authority. They're a group of appointed officials who control Dulles and Reagan National and they're in charge of the silver line project. And, you know, let's say, for the sake of gravity, let's just call them the airporters.
Airporters, let's do it.
Okay, but then on the other side, you've got local politicians from Fairfax county and Loudoun county. They're the ones who will be footing a big portion of the bill for this project in the form of taxpayer dollars. And why don't we call these guys, the politicos.
All right. So we've got the airporters versus the politicos. So which group wants the station above ground and which one wants it under?
The airporters want it to be underground, about 550 feet from the terminal entrance. The politicos want it to be above ground, twice as far from the terminal. That's almost four football fields away.
Both of those options, they kind of sound like a bit of a schlep. Especially if your hauling multiple pieces of luggage, I mean.
Yeah, yeah, although, I actually went to the airport this week and I walked from where the above ground station would be to the terminal. It took me five minutes.
Oh, that's not bad.
That's not bad. But the airporters, they say that would still deter some people from using it. Now, here's the airports authority board member, Mame Reiley.
MS. MAME REILEY
I think we need to do everything humanly possible to increase the ridership. And I think this station is about 550 feet closer to the airport. And, I think, as a result we're going to recognize over the year, more ridership.
So clearly, the closer the station is to the airport, the more people will use it. That makes sense. So what is the downside to this underground option?
The downside is the price.
It's anywhere from $215 million to maybe, you know, a little over $300 million more.
Whoa, so the airporters are willing to pay that much more just to have an underground station?
They are. And here's why. So I mentioned the airporters are the ones who run Dulles International. And their primary motivation, you know, they're over arching goal is to turn Dulles into the biggest, busiest airport it can be. Something on the same level as the O'Hare's or the JFK's of the world. But the airporters know the biggest thing holding Dulles back is that it's just not very convenient. So the last thing the airporters want to do is make Dulles even less convenient by putting a metro station far away from the terminal.
Makes sense. What about the politicos then? I'm assuming they see it differently.
Yeah, they do. Here's one of them, Loudoun County Chairman Scott York.
MR. SCOTT YORK
The rail will be a benefit. But we don't need to do the rail at any cost.
Now, York and his colleagues in Loudoun and Fairfax are worried this project is becoming unaffordable, but they're also worried about their own political futures. See, Fairfax and Loudoun are each paying a fixed percentage of the silver lines cost. In fact, some politicos are worried, if the cost of the silver line gets too high, they might have to raise taxes to pay for it. And no politico anywhere wants to do that.
Well, given the scuffle, who wins out? I mean, do we know how this is going to end?
Well, ultimately the airporters control the silver line project. So they have the final say but if the politicos really don't like what they're doing with it, they could exercise the nuclear option and withdraw their share of the funding.
Yeah, but ultimately this whole conflict might just be for show. Remember that airporter we heard from earlier, Mame Reiley?
She said she spoken privately with several of the politicos. And they say, they actually want the underground option, also known as the preferred alternative, they just can't come out and say it.
Someone said to me, you know, Mame, we're running -- some of us are running for reelection. You know, that's the way it is. But I asked if we do indeed pick the preferred alternative, are they going to be okay with it? And I got the sense that that was the case. But again...
But they can't publicly say that?
So let me get this straight, she's saying the politicos are going to hem and haw about this but ultimately, in the end, they'll vote to fund it?
Yeah, pretty much. Now, of course, Scott York, the Loudoun County Chairman says, his is not okay.
It's irresponsible to be twofaced, to sit there and say, on one hand publicly that you're supporting the option that is less money so that you can use that for election purposes. And then turn around and tell members of (word?) well, you know, don't worry about. We don't mean it.
But I guess we'll have to wait to find out what the politicos really mean until they cast their final votes on this projects funding.
And when will that be?
Well, there's no exact date yet, but it should be sometime in the late summer, early fall.
All right, well, we'll definitely be keeping our eyes on this one. Thank you so much for coming in, David.
David Schultz is the transportation reporter here at WAMU. For a video demonstration of exactly how long the walk would be from an above ground station to the airport, visit our website, metroconnection.org.
Transcripts of WAMU programs are available for personal use. Transcripts are provided "As Is" without warranties of any kind, either express or implied. WAMU does not warrant that the transcript is error-free. For all WAMU programs, the broadcast audio should be considered the authoritative version. Transcripts are owned by WAMU 88.5 FM American University Radio and are protected by laws in both the United States and international law. You may not sell or modify transcripts or reproduce, display, distribute, or otherwise use the transcript, in whole or in part, in any way for any public or commercial purpose without the express written permission of WAMU. All requests for uses beyond personal and noncommercial use should be referred to (202) 885-1200.