When Tim Kaine assumed the governorship in 2006, he made it a mission of his administration to move Rail to Dulles out of the planning stages and into the construction process.
On March 12, 2009 — Kaine's last year in office — the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project began along Route 123 near International Drive.
Now a candidate for the U.S. Senate, Kaine (D) took a tour of the future Tysons Corner stop Tuesday along with Sen. Mark Warner (D) and U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th District), and saw Phase I's progress as it nears its anticipated summer 2013 completion date.
"I was struck when I got to be governor that this [project] had been on the drawing board for a very, very long time, and there hadn't been one shovel of earth turned," Kaine said. "I told Pierce Homer, my Secretary of Transportation when I came in, 'Look, we're going to have this thing under construction before I leave. I don't exactly know how. We've got a lot of hurdles still to get over, but we're going to.' It's really exciting to see it within a year of construction being complete."
Larry Melton, director of Dulles Transit Partners, led the tour of the Tysons Corner station, which is still under construction — about 68 percent complete — and just one piece of the $2.9 billion Phase I.
At the end of two phases — the second currently in the process of selecting a contractor — will result in a 23-mile Silver Line that leads from East Falls Church through Dulles Airport and end in the eastern part of Loudoun County.
"This is the single hardest thing I ever worked on in public life, eight years as a local official and eight years as a state official," Kaine said. "... I hope to be in a position where I can start working on Phase II, and doing what we can to make sure there is Phase II funding from the federal level and state level so that it's not just all on the shoulders of Northern Virginia."
Kaine's campaign contacted the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority the organization that manages the rail project, about taking a tour of the site — a request MWAA was more than happy to grant.
"We're always anxious to show off what we're doing here. We think it's a very important project for the region and we're very proud of the work we're doing," said Pat Nowakowski, an MWAA spokesperson. "When we get the opportunity to show it off to some of the people who made this happen, we're happy to do it."
MWAA believes it is important to highlight the work being done on the Dulles Rail project in order to secure the "best possible funding support for Phase II," Nowakowski said.
"We don't want to raise tolls too high. We want to make sure we can get as much funding as we possibly can to get that phase moving," he said. "It's important for us to show what this project brings to the area, both in terms of mobility and economic development."
Kaine further addressed his position on the Rail to Dulles and transportation after his tour of the Tysons Corner site:
Do you feel comfortable with the status of the project right now?
I think the main issue that now is on the table — I feel very comfortable that these great workers and construction managers are going to get this Phase I to completion largely on time and on budget. The issue now is Phase II. Will there be the sufficient federal and state commitment to Phase II that will enable the tolls on Northern Virginia commuters to be reasonable? I fought so hard for Phase I, and I'm going to fight every bit as hard for Phase II funding at the federal and state level to make sure the tolls are as reasonable as can be. Tolls are a legitimate financing strategy for infrastructure, but you gotta have public investment sufficient to make the tolls reasonable. If there's not public investment and the tolls are too high, then you haven't really solved the problem. You've created a problem. I have always been a vote and a voice for infrastructure funding, and I'm going to continue to be that vote at the federal level to try to do what I can, working with great colleagues like Congressman Connolly and Senator Warner, to make sure there are the public investments in Phase II that can make the tolls reasonable.
What can you, in the role of U.S. senator, do for Northern Virginia transportation?
First, I can be a voice and a vote for transportation funding. There was not a transportation bill at the federal level from 2009 until this past summer because there weren't enough members of Congress — Senator Warner was one, Gerry [Connolly] was one — but there weren't enough members of Congress willing to invest in transportation. So the more robust transportation program we have nationally, the more likely a project like this can secure federal funds. So first, fight for a well-funded, national infrastructure. Second, look at particular financing strategies that come through at the federal level. So there are TIFIA loan programs, transportation financing loans, that can help bring costs down. There are TIFIA loans for HOT lanes on the Beltway and some of the other projects around here, so we want to make sure the overall funding of the nation's infrastructure is sufficient and then battle to try to win the competitions by demonstrating this is a project of national importance to try to get some of these special funds.
Why is it of national importance?
Because this is the rail that will serve the nation's international airport. One of the things that really struck me when I was governor was we worked hard to get United to provide daily service from Washington to Beijing. Washington is for our lifetimes, and for many lifetimes after us, one of the most important three or four cities in the world. I think it's very important the international airport that serves Washington have very vigorous transportation. This is what people see when they're coming to visit the nation's capital and they ought to be seeing state-of-the-art transportation that makes it easier to come visit. And then you add that to the fact that every member of Congress uses Dulles. Every member of the diplomatic corps for any other nation uses Dulles. The massive military presence in the D.C. area uses Dulles. This is an international airport of huge significance to the national economy, and that justifies a federal investment.
George Allen also touts support for Rail to Dulles. How are you different from him on this front?
He says the same things but he has a very different record. He was governor for four years and these projects were on the drawing board, and four years later they hadn't moved at all. I know he believes they're important but there's nothing he can point to that he can say, "When I had to, I put my shoulder to the wheel and I got some stuff done and Northern Virginia has options that they didn't have before." Right here in this neighborhood, Dulles Rail and HOT lanes are examples of projects that were on the drawing board only and they were both under construction by the time I left. So the big question is, who is going to fight harder for getting Phase II done? You know, we both are both saying the right things, but I think where I have an edge is I have a demonstrated record of not just words but actually making it happen.