Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area/Dulles Corridor Rapid Transit

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Dulles Corridor Rapid Transit

Washington, DC

(November 1999)

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The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT) proposes to construct, under the technical guidance of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), an approximately 23 mile extension of Metrorail service in Northern Virginia in the Dulles Corridor. The Dulles Corridor, a rapidly growing suburban area west of Washington, DC, contains major regional employment and residential centers, including Tysons Corner, Reston Town Center, Dulles International Airport, the Town of Herndon, the proposed Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Annex, and new commercial and residential development in eastern Loudoun County. The phased rapid transit system would provide enhanced service extending from the Metrorail Orange Line at Falls Church through Tysons Corner to Dulles International Airport and into eastern Loudoun County, primarily along the medians of the Dulles Airport Access Road and the Dulles Greenway. The fully built rail project is scheduled for operation in 2010 at an estimated cost of $2.2 billion (escalated). Interim phases to implementation of rail to Dulles International Airport/Loudoun County are enhanced express bus service, a fully extended bus rapid transit (BRT) system, and rail service between Falls Church and Tysons Corner.

The minimum operating segment (MOS) for the Dulles Corridor Rapid Transit project is the bus rapid transit (BRT) system currently under review as a New Starts project. The proposed BRT system will be developed as an interim step to rail, using the reserved lanes of the Dulles Airport Access Road (DAAR) as a fixed guideway for advanced technology buses. BRT service will be provided between the Metrorail Orange Line and the Western Regional Park and Ride Lot located at Route 606 in Loudoun County. The proposed BRT system will include construction of at least three transit stations convertible to rail stations located in the median of the DAAR, stations at major park and ride lots within the corridor and Tysons Corner, and interface with Metrorail at Falls Church. BRT service is scheduled for operation in 2003 at an estimated capital cost of $280 million (escalated). Average weekday boardings for the BRT are estimated to be 23,000 in 2020 with 13,600 daily new riders. (Note: The BRT analysis reflects year 2020 conditions although plans call for rail to replace BRT in 2010.)

Summary Description

Proposed Project:

Bus Rapid Transit; 23 miles, 3 new stations convertible to rail

Total Capital Cost ($YOE):

$ 279.8 million

Section 5309 Share ($YOE):

$ 217.8 million

Annual Operating Cost ($YOE):

$ 48.4 million

Ridership Forecast (2020):

23,000 avg. weekday boardings

13,600 daily new riders

FY 2001 Financial Rating:


FY 2001 Project Justification Rating:


FY 2001 Overall Project Rating:


The Recommended rating is based on the adequacy of the BRT system’s justification criteria and capital finance plan at this early stage of Preliminary Engineering. The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1999. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


The report of a Major Investment Study (MIS) for the corridor was issued in 1996, recommending construction of a Metro-like rail system. The Dulles Corridor Task Force issued the Dulles Corridor MIS Refinement in July 1999, reaffirming development of a rail system but with interim development of a BRT system. The phased BRT/rail system was adopted by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board and included in the metropolitan Washington region Constrained Long Range Plan in October 1999. VDRPT and WMATA submitted a request to initiate preliminary engineering for the BRT MOS and to initiate the NEPA process for the full Dulles Corridor Rapid Transit project to FTA in November 1999.

TEA-21 Section 3030(a)(93) authorizes the "Washington, DC – Dulles Corridor Extension" for final design and construction. Through FY 2000, Congress has appropriated $41.40 million for this project in Section 5309 New Starts funds.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA’s Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria for the 23 mile BRT system. N/A indicates that data are not available for a specific measure.

FTA has evaluated this BRT project as entering preliminary engineering. The project will be re-evaluated when it is ready to advance to final design and for next year’s Annual Report on New Starts; subsequent rail phases of the Dulles Corridor Rapid Transit Project will be evaluated when ready to initiate preliminary engineering.


The Medium project justification rating reflects the adequacy of the project’s environmental benefits, mobility improvements, and cost effectiveness at this early stage of preliminary engineering.

Mobility Improvements

Rating: Medium

VDRPT and WMATA estimate that the Dulles Corridor BRT will have 23,000 average weekday boardings and attract 13,600 daily new riders by 2020, and would result in the following annual travel time savings.


Mobility Improvements

New Start vs.


New Start vs. TSM

Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours)

2.1 million

1.9 million

Based on 1990 Census data, there are an estimated 237 low-income households within a ½ mile radius of the proposed 3 new stations, approximately 4 percent of total households within ½ mile radius of the proposed stations.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: High

The Washington, DC Metropolitan area is a serious non-attainment area for ozone, and a moderate non-attainment area for carbon monoxide. VDRPT and WMATA estimate that in 2020, the Dulles Corridor BRT would result in the following annual emissions reductions.


Criteria Pollutant

New Start vs.


New Start vs. TSM

Carbon Monoxide (CO)



Nitrogen Oxide (NOx)



Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)



Particulate Matter (PM10)



Carbon Dioxide (CO2)



Values reflect annual tons of emissions reductions. Values in brackets [ ] indicate an increase in emissions.

VDRPT and WMATA estimate that in 2020, the Dulles Corridor BRT would result in the following savings in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units – BTU).


Annual Energy Savings

New Start vs.


New Start vs. TSM

BTU (million)



Values reflect annual BTU reductions

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Medium

VDRPT and WMATA estimate the following system wide operating costs per passenger mile in 2020 for the Dulles Corridor BRT, No-Build, and TSM alternatives.




New Start

System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (2020)




Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1999 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Low-Medium

VDRPT and WMATA estimate the following cost effectiveness indices for the new start as compared to the no-build and TSM alternatives.


New Start vs.


New Start vs.


Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger



Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Low-Medium

The Low-Medium land use rating reflects the moderate to low density of existing land uses in the Dulles Corridor and the need for additional transit supportive land use policies.

Existing Conditions: The proposed Dulles Corridor BRT will serve several suburban major activity centers including Tysons Corner (18 million sq.ft. of office space and two regional malls), Reston Town Center (a large suburban office park/shopping area surrounded by a large planned residential development), the town of Herndon, Dulles International Airport, the proposed Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Annex, and the rapidly growing suburban communities in Loudoun County. However, much of the existing development is auto-oriented and the proposed BRT system will utilize the center of the Dulles Airport Access Road (an eight lane freeway), which will make pedestrian access to/from the surrounding land uses difficult. With the exception of Dulles Airport, free parking is available throughout the numerous office parks and shopping centers along the corridor.

Future Plans and Policies: The population in the corridor is expected to increase from 180,700 in 1990 to 430,200 in 2020, an increase of 138 percent. Employment in the corridor is anticipated to increase from 145,000 in 1990 to 324,000 in 2020, an increase of 123 percent. Generally, high population growth is forecast for the Washington, DC metropolitan area (44 percent between 1995 and 2020) and the study area is expected to capture a significant share of that growth. Fairfax and Loudoun Counties have adopted policies in their comprehensive plans that support moderate increases in density in transit station areas. Additionally, WMATA has a strong track record of encouraging joint development at Metrorail Stations. It is anticipated that as the project progresses through preliminary engineering and after station locations are identified, more specific transit supportive plans and policies will be developed and implemented by individual jurisdictions in the Dulles Corridor.

Other Factors

FTA BRT Demonstration Program: In August 1999, the Dulles Corridor BRT project was selected as one of FTA’s ten Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Demonstration Projects. FTA’s BRT Demonstration Program is intended to foster the development of BRT systems in the United States; address BRT planning, implementation and operational issues; and evaluate system performance in a wide range of operating environments.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 New Starts Share of Total Project Costs: 22%

The VDRPT financial plan proposes to use $217.8 million (78 percent of total project costs) in Section 5309 New Starts funds, $2 million (1 percent) of FHWA Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds, and $4 million (1 percent) of Intelligent Transportation System/Bus Rapid Transit Demonstration Funds. Proposed State and local funding is as follows: $8 million (3 percent) from the Commonwealth Transportation Trust Fund; $6 million (2 percent) from Northern Virginia Transportation District Bonds; $9 million (3 percent) from Excess Toll Revenues; $21 million (8 percent) from new local/regional taxes; and $1 million from local jurisdiction general funds. Private funding includes $6 million (2 percent) from equipment sales-leasebacks and $5 million (2 percent) from a public-private proposal.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Medium

The Medium capital finance plan rating reflects the financial conditions of the Virginia Capital Transportation Trust Fund (VCTTF) and WMATA, and the reasonableness of the capital financing plan at this stage of preliminary engineering for the BRT project. This rating reflects evaluation of only the BRT system.

Agency Capital Financial Condition: The VCTTF and WMATA are in sound financial condition. The Commonwealth of Virginia will finance the capital development of the project through the VCTTF and locally through Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. The State and Fairfax County are members of the WMATA Compact, responsible for financing the 103 mile Metrorail system.

Capital Cost Estimates and Contingencies: The capital cost estimates are sufficient for a project in this early stage of preliminary engineering. As the project advances through the planning and project development processes, it is anticipated that the capital cost estimates will be refined.

Existing and Committed Funding: Commonwealth Capital Transportation Trust Funds and a portion of the excess toll revenues have been allocated by the Virginia General Assembly. Funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation District Fund has been authorized by the Virginia General Assembly, subject to local referenda. It is anticipated that as the project advances through the planning and project development processes, additional funds will be

committed towards the project from State funding sources as indicated in the project financial plan.

New and Proposed Sources: Several new funding sources are proposed for the project including proposed local/regional income/sales/gas taxes, revenue from sale-leaseback arrangements for buses, and revenue from public-private proposals.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Medium

The Medium operating finance plan rating reflects the ability of Fairfax and Loudoun Counties and WMATA to operate local and regional bus service, and current efforts to increase transit service in the Dulles Corridor. This rating reflects evaluation of only the BRT system.

Agency Operating Financial Condition: WMATA will operate advanced technology buses for the proposed Dulles Corridor BRT. The agency is in sound operating condition and has been experiencing a 2 percent increase in ridership annually.

Operating Cost Estimates and Contingencies: Average annual operating costs are estimated in forecast-year dollars at $48.4 million for the Dulles Corridor BRT. At this early stage of preliminary engineering, a detailed account of the operation and maintenance costs for the project has not been provided.

Existing and Committed Funding: Limited funds have been committed towards operating the proposed BRT. However, in July of 1999, the Fairfax Connector Bus service started operating new express bus service, reverse commute service, collector-feeder service, and regional bus route service in the corridor. In 2001, Fairfax County will add 18 new bus routes to the Dulles Corridor. Thus, the transit operators are committed towards increasing bus service to meet anticipated demand.

New and Proposed Sources: Several new funding sources are proposed for operating BRT service in the corridor, including sales-leasebacks and innovative procurement.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)


Proposed Source of Funds

Total Funding ($million)


Appropriations to Date



Section 5309 New Starts


($41.40 million appropriated through FY 2000)


ITS/BRT Demo Funds








Commonwealth Capital

Transportation Trust Fund



Northern.Virginia Transpor-

tation District Bonds



Excess Toll Revenue





New Local/Regional Taxes



Local Jurisdiction General






Equipment Sale-Leaseback



Public-Private Proposals






NOTE: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

Dulles Corridor Rapid Transit