LaHood enters DC MetroRail Dulles expansion debate

At issue is whether the Dulles station, which is ostensibly the reason the 23-mile railway is being built, should be located above or below ground. Airport officials say an underground station would be more convenient for flyers, but local leaders point out it would cost $330 million more to build.

With the federal government contributing $1 billion to the project, and having a keen interest in seeing any new railways built after its high-speed rail plans have faced staunch opposition, LaHood is stepping in and offering to be a mediator.

"It will be completed," LaHood told the paper, predicting the current impasse was temporary. "It’s too important to the people of this region.”

LaHood did not indicate whether he supported the above or below ground station at Dulles, but he did offer sympathy to the cost concerns raised by the elected officials.

"We don't have a bottomless pit of money," he said.

LaHood has stepped into local transportation issues before, most recently helping officials in his native Illinois hammer out a deal with airlines on improvements to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

Another Washington area newspaper predicted recently that the MetroRail expansion would become a campaign issue in the highly-watched Senate race between former Virginia Gov. and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine and former Sen. George Allen (R). Kaine, who is running to replace retiring Sen. Jim Webb (D), signed off on the plan during his term as governor. 

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