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Old Posted Jun 10, 2009, 6:09 PM
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Washington DC: Rail transit

Gerry Connolly, Jim Moran push rail extension in transportation bill

Washington Business Journal –
by Sarah Krouse Staff Reporter

http://washington.bizjournals.com/wa...433600^1839489

Two Northern Virginia congressmen want a bill to extend Metro attached to federal transportation legislation being drafted.
Reps. Gerry Connolly and Jim Moran, both Democrats, want Congress to earmark funds for a feasibility study and preliminary engineering for major extensions of the Orange, Blue and Yellow lines. They estimate the study would cost about $20 million.
“The point of my bill is to jump-start the discussion about extending these lines,” said Connolly, a former Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman. “By the time it’s completed in 2013, the rail to Dulles will have taken 51 years from the first discussion to the first passenger. I don’t want another 51 years before there are more extensions.”
Under Connolly’s plan, the Orange Line, which now ends in Vienna, would continue along Interstate 66 to Centreville. The Blue Line would extend from Franconia-Springfield along I-95 to Prince William County. And the Yellow Line, which ends at Huntington, would go to Fort Belvoir and Woodbridge. The Purple Line, still in the planning stages, would cross Montgomery County and move around the Beltway.
Connolly, who introduced his bill in March, is working with Moran to persuade other members of Congress to include their earmark in the transportation reauthorization bill, the massive federal transportation law reauthorized every five years.
Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is expected to unveil his blueprint for the bill June 9. The current transportation law expires Sept. 30.
A major obstacle for Metro extensions is the drawn-out approval process for transit developments, Connolly said. “For transit projects, you have to spend a decade working with the federal government to get approval for environmental standards, feasibility studies and cost effectiveness.”
He also noted a sharp drop in federal funding.
“The federal government paid for 80 percent of the original Metro system,” Connolly said. “In Dulles, we’ll be lucky if 16 percent of the money comes from the federal government. Rail is never going to get cheaper and it’s carbon neutral, whereas building another road will only add to emissions, so why not encourage more mass transit?”
Extending Metro would also clear the roads for people not headed into D.C., said Shiva Pant, chief of staff for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which runs Metro.
“Even if you are transit rider in west Fairfax, you still drive or take a bus to the Fairfax station to get to a train,” Pant said. “With the extension, you could get on a train farther west and remove some drivers from the road so that there is better capacity for folks not headed in and out of D.C.”
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