Stopping by the mid-year meeting of the Dulles Corridor Rail Association Tuesday evening, Gov. Bob McDonnell made his support for the extension of the Silver Line to its planned terminus in Ashburn clear.
"I am fully in support of Phase 2 of the Metro project,” he said. “This is something we have to do.”
McDonnell called the extension of the Silver Line “one of the most important, if not the most important infrastructure projects in the country.” He said Dulles Airport is the gateway to the capital region and the state and the region need to take full advantage of that. He told the audience of his recent trip to Europe to sell Virginia, where he asked a group of people whether they had ever been to Virginia.
“And only a few of the hands went up,” he said. “Then I asked who had been to Dulles Airport and every hand went up. I said, ‘Then you’ve been to Virginia.’ People just don’t know that Dulles Airport is in Virginia.”
McDonnell acknowledged that the Silver Line project is also one of the most expensive undertakings, noting that “$250 million a mile is real money,” and he said it was appropriate that local leaders are taking a hard look at the plans, the funding and the cost before making a final decision.
Having grown up in Alexandria, McDonnell said he remembers other big decisions made by local governments, namely the placement of Dulles Airport, and the push back felt over that decision.
“I remember my parents saying, ‘I can’t believe they’re building an airport way out there. No one will ever use it,’” he said, adding with a laugh, “You know the end to that story.”
Because of the scope of the project, he praised the funding partners that came together to find a way to bring down the costs by around $1 billion, and said he was pleased to approve the $150 million from the state to buy down tolls in the next two years. There were no comments made about any potential additional funding from the state.
“We will continue to have ongoing productive discussions about how to make this a world-class project,” McDonnell said, saying that even with the issues he has had with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority at times he believes “good people can come together in good faith” to work together for the greater good.
“I am hopeful and I ask my friends on the Loudoun County board to favorably review this project,” he said. “We need them to be an ongoing partner in this project… And we will find a way to this happen in a prudent, economical, responsible and accountable way for the good people of Virginia.”