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U.S. Transportation Secretary signs off on TIFIA loan for Dulles rail

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx today signed off on a $1.9 billion federal loan to help finance the $6 billion Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, which will extend Metro's Silver Line track to the Dulles airport and into Loudoun County.

Foxx's signature was the next -- and one of the final -- steps in the loan process. The loan is awarded through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) and is the largest in TIFIA history. The financing will help keep toll rates down for Dulles Toll Road users. According to a chart of potential fares, the TIFIA funds could help save toll road users $2 per trip by 2019 and as much as $5.50 by 2043.

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, a leading partner for the project, said that while the loan has been approved, it hasn't gone to market, and therefore an exact rate isn't available. MWAA and federal lawmakers touted the loan as "low-interest."

Loudoun County is a funding partner for the Dulles rail project, one of the most massive infrastructure endeavors in the nation, along with MWAA, Fairfax County and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

After voting to remain a part of the venture in summer 2012, Loudoun became responsible for 4.8 percent of the overall cost of the Dulles rail project – both Phase One and Phase Two. Altogether, Loudoun’s expenses have been estimated at approximately $260 million to $270 million for capital costs. Annual expenses for the county are likely to range anywhere from $10 million to $20 million once the project is complete.

This chart, provided by MWAA, shows toll rates with and without the TIFIA loan.

The airports authority quickly put out a statement Thursday morning heralding the loan.

“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," the statement notes.

“The approval of a federal low-interest TIFIA loan for the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project is 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," the statement continues.

U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.-10th), who has been a key voice on the project for more than a decade, said, “This is good news for Virginia and for anyone who uses the Toll Road.  It will keep tolls down and shows the federal government’s continued support and commitment to this project.”

This is a developing story.

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