Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority endorses above-ground Dulles Metro station

The airports board convenes to debate the hotly-contested Dulles Metro station plan. (Photo: Suzanne Kennedy/WJLA)

(AP, WJLA) - The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has reversed course on their endorsement for the Dulles Metro project, voting nearly unanimously to adopt a recommendation from Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood that includes an above-ground Metro station at Dulles.

LaHood's proposal favors building the Dulles Metro station above ground. Along with other changes, that is meant to save about $1 billion from the project’s cost.

The new plan will cost about $2.8 billion, down from the $3.8 billion it would have cost to construct an underground station closer to the terminal.

The board voted 11-1 in favor of the Lahood proposal.

District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray has also urged the district's three members of the board to reconsider their votes in favor of the underground station.

Board members who support the underground station have said it's a better long-term solution that's more convenient for travelers and preserves the airport's architectural heritage.

The U.S. Department of Transportation put pressure on the airports authority board to accept the cheaper above-ground station. “Every year we wait its going to carry with it a considerable cost penalty the taxpayers of the region and the toll users,” Peter Rogoff of the transportation department said.

The station would be built at the north end of the garage and would be climate-controlled, unlike other metro stations. Board member Bob Brown cast the one dissenting vote.

“I will be embarrassed that the international gateway airport for the capital of my country has a slipshod station like this. This is an embarrassment and an outrage,” Brown said.

Some board members and commuters are concerned how much the project costs will raise the tolls on the Dulles toll road.

“The people who ride the rails should be paying at least as much as the people who ride the toll road to pay for this project,” said Robert Whitfield, who uses the toll road.

Jim Corcoran, the president and CEO of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, says in a statement that while the Chamber supports the Lahood plan, it still adds an additional tax burden on Fairfax County taxpayers.

He says that the proposal adds $136 million to the county's share of the cost by transferring responsibility for the planned Route 28 station.