Silver Line Gets $1.9 Billion in Federal Loans

Silver Line construction/Credit: Fairfax CountyThe Silver Line received final approval Thursday of nearly $1.9 billion in Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans, paving the way for Phase 2 of the rail project to be built with a lower impact to Dulles Toll Road users.

This will be the largest loan in the TIFIA program’s history, said members of the Virginia congressional delegation.

“Today’s final approval of the TIFIA loan is great news for the future economic growth of Northern Virginia,” Senator Mark Warner (D) said in a statement. “Our bipartisan congressional delegation has been unified in pushing to get this critical piece of financing, which will provide welcome and meaningful relief for commuters using the Dulles Toll Road.  This is a huge step forward for a project that has been decades in the making.”

The loan is expected to close in the coming weeks. TIFIA is a program of the U.S. Department of Transportation that provides federal credit assistance to finance major surface transportation projects of national and regional significance.

Construction of Phase 2, which will run from Reston’s Wiehle Avenue to Reston Parkway, Herndon, Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County, should begin later this year.

Phase 1 of the $5.6 billion project will likely open this summer. Construction on Phase 1 has been deemed complete. MWAA and Metro are conducting final testing, but no opening date has been set. Phase 1 is currently running about seven months behind schedule.

While Phase 1 of the rail line received $900 million in federal funding, Phase 2 received none, and many observers predicted a large spike in tolls to make up the difference. Tolls have risen the last three years, but now will remain frozen for five years, MWAA officials said. Phase 2 will also receive $300 million from the Commonwealth of Virginia.

In a statement, MWAA called the loan approval “a victory for users of the Dulles Toll Road, whose toll payments help fund construction of the Silver Line extension of the Washington region’s Metrorail public transit system.”

“The Airports Authority’s objective has always been to keep tolls on the Dulles Toll Road as low as possible, and the TIFIA loan is a major factor in meeting that objective. Thanks to the favorable interest rates the loan provides, as well as $300 million committed by the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Airports Authority will be able to hold tolls at current levels through 2018 and to limit future toll increases.”

Phase 2 is expected to begin operations in 2018.

Photo: MWAA/File photo

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