By Keith Laing - 05/01/14 01:19 PM EDT
The Department of Transportation has approved a $1.9 million loan for the second phase of the Silver Line extension of the Washington, D.C., Metrorail subway system, lawmakers from northern Virginia announced on Thursday.
The lawmakers said the loan is the largest ever awarded under the DOT's popular Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program, which allows states to compete for funding for local projects that can be leveraged to win money from other sources.
The lawmakers said the loan would help ease the burden of paying for construction of the second phase of the Silver Line on drivers on Dulles International Toll Road, who were supposed to provide funding via increased rates.
The Silver Line is an extension of Washington, D.C.'s Metro system that is being built to run through the capital area's suburbs in northern Virginia. The project is one of the largest public transportation projects currently under construction in the country, and the first phase of the line is being built, in part, with $900 million in federal money.
The first half of the Silver Line is an 11.5 mile branch of Metro's existing Orange Line that is being built to run through Tysons Corner and into Reston, Va. The first phase is scheduled to open this summer.
The second phase, which the DOT is issuing the grant for, is scheduled to connect Dulles International Airport with downtown Washington, D.C. Construction on the Silver Line's second phase is scheduled to begin this summer, and trains are supposed to begin running in 2018.
The DC airport authority is overseeing construction of the new line and turning it over to the agency that runs the Metro for daily operations.
The construction of the Silver Line has been controversial because the railway has faced several delays in recent months. Construction was originally scheduled to be completed in August of last year, and the line was supposed to be open for passengers in November.
Lawmakers heralded the DOT's announcement that it was approving the loan for the Silver Line's second phase as a much-needed jolt of positive news for the beleaguered transit extension.
“Today’s final approval of the TIFIA loan is great news for the future economic growth of northern Virginia,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) 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.”