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MWAA Obtains More Silver Line Financing

by Karen Goff — May 23, 2014 at 1:00 pm 0

Testing the Silver Line near Tysons/File photo by MWAAThe Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s (MWAA) Board of Directors this week finalized the bond sale that will complete the financing of the Silver Line.

The $422 million in Dulles Toll Revenue bonds, which were priced on May 14, will close on May 22, MWAA’s Board of Directors announced at its monthly meeting on Wednesday.

From MWAA:

High investor interest helped drive down interest rates for the bonds, which were rated Baa1 by Moody’s and Baa1 by Standard & Poor’s. Drivers on the Dulles Toll Road will ultimately benefit from the low interest rates achieved on these bonds.

 With the completion of the bond sale and the May 1 announcement of federal approval of the application for a low-interest loan through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program, major financing for the Airports Authority’s portion of the Silver Line project will soon be complete.

“Our pledge from the beginning of our stewardship of the Silver Line and the Dulles Toll Road has been to limit the impact on drivers,” said Airports Authority Chairman Frank M. Conner III.

“This final bond sale in a low interest-rate environment, as well as other efforts such as the recently approved low-interest federal loan and the $300 million committed by the Commonwealth of Virginia for the project, allow us to fulfill that pledge. And we will continue working to find cost savings that can be passed along to Toll Road users.”

The board has said that when the financing is in place, toll road users can count on toll rates to remain frozen until 2018. Some had predicted that rates would rise as high as $18 in the next several years without additional sources of financing.

Phase 1 of the Silver Line was built with $900 million in federal funding. Phase 2 did not get federal funding, and has had to look for additional sources of money to finance the rail.

Advocacy group Reston 2020 has been skeptical that tolls will remain steady. The group also said last week that the federal Highway Trust Fund is nearing bankruptcy, which may put the TIFIA funds in jeopardy.

MWAA also announced formal plans for a new express bus that will serve Dulles passengers this summer when Silver Line trains begin running to Reston. The first phase of the Silver Line will run from East Falls Church to Reston’s Wiehle Avenue, which will remain the terminus until at least 2018.

The second phase of the Silver Line, which will begin construction next year, will go to Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County.

The Silver Line Express bus, part of the airport’s Washington Flyer service, will operate non-stop between the Wiehle-Reston East station and Dulles every 20 minutes off-peak and every 15 minutes during peak travel times, says MWAA.

The buses will include complimentary Wi-Fi service. Fares will be $5 each way. The existing Washington Flyer bus service from West Falls Church will be discontinued when the Silver Line opens on a date to be announced by the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority.

The Silver Line is expected to transfer from MWAA and its contractors, which built the $2.9 billion project, to Metro, which will operate it, next week. Metro will then have 90 days to conduct its own testing, meaning the first passengers should ride the line this summer.

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