Within the decade, meeting attendees who are in Washington, D.C., for conventions will have a new public transportation option for getting from the airport to their hotel, as the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) has approved the location for a new underground Metrorail station at Washington Dulles International Airport, it announced this month.
The new station is part of a multibillion-dollar rail project — known as the "Dulles Metrorail Project" — that will connect Dulles Airport to downtown Washington, D.C., via a 23-mile extension of the existing Metrorail system, operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Being built in two phases, the project will include 11 new Metro stations in Virginia's Dulles corridor. Scheduled for completion in 2013, Phase 1 will run from East Falls Church to Wiehle Avenue on the eastern edge of Reston, Va. It will include five stations. Phase 2, meanwhile — running from Wiehle Avenue to Route 772 in eastern Loudoun County, Va. — is scheduled for completion in 2017. It will include the remaining six Metro stations, including the one at Dulles Airport.
"We are preparing for a future in which Dulles will be an increasingly important economic engine for our region," MWAA Board member Mame Reiley, chair of the Dulles Corridor Committee, wrote in an April 17 editorial that was published in The Washington Post. "We expect the number of non‐connecting passengers arriving at Dulles to grow from 18 million annually to 42 million. We project that at least 10 percent of those passengers will use Metro to travel to and from the airport, in addition to the thousands of employees who work at Dulles. That will take a lot of cars off Northern Virginia's clogged roads. When the station is ready in 2017, it will open with at least 5,000 Metro riders per day, or more than 1.8 million a year."
Although the Metro station enjoys full support from both the airport and the surrounding community, its design has been a point of controversy: Although MWAA has said an underground station will be the most cost-effective option, Virginia officials have argued in favor of an aerial station, instead, arguing that underground construction will significantly disrupt traffic on the Dulles Toll Road outside the airport.
"We have already witnessed the consequences of putting a Metro station in the wrong place," Reiley wrote in defense of MWAA's decision. "The station at Reagan National Airport was originally built at a distance of more than 1,000 feet from the old main terminal, and relatively few passengers made the long hike, especially in poor weather. When we built the new Reagan National terminal, we located it next to the rail station to remedy the problem. Today, about 17 percent of Reagan National's passengers use Metro, the highest modal share for rail usage of any airport in the country.
"We at the airports authority are committed to managing costs well to deliver the highest value in building the best possible system for our passengers and region. The approved design is vastly more passenger‐friendly than the alternatives, a key driving factor in airport use and consumer satisfaction. And after we shave additional costs from the project, the final dollar differential will be much lower. Taking all these factors into consideration, a solid majority of the board agreed that the underground station is the best choice for now — and for the next 75 years."