It's all over but the politics and newspaper articles. The 23-mile, 11-station extension of Metrorail to Dulles is going to become a reality within 10 years for a cost of about $4 billion. This extension is the first major addition to the system since the 1960s metrorail plan construction was completed in 2001. The extension represents a more than 20% increase in track miles for the system.
I strongly support this extension, especially since I will not be paying for it and my boss will be paying for it. Much of the construction costs will be defrayed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority through increased tolls on the Dulles Toll Road. The Airports Authority was given responsibility for the project by the Virginia governor in an expedient political deal that swept away several intermediate steps between planning and construction. The Washington Post has a good article regarding the move.
One interesting aspect of this extension is that it is being built all the way out to Loudon County, an outer suburb of Washington. Without the existence of Dulles Airport, Loudon County would not have the population density required to support the extension.
Currently, it is a hassle to travel to the airport such that flying out of Reagan National Airport is much more convenient. A traveler flying out of Dulles must transfer from metrorail to metrobus at the Rosslyn metro station. However, even though Reagan National is beautiful and convenient, it cannot grow to accomodate budget airlines and international flights. Normally, tickets cost much more for flights out of Reagan National than Dulles.
Overall, the extension is not the most highly favorable to the city of Washington (as opposed to the Washington metropolitan area), because it tends to move the center of gravity for the system to the Virginia suburbs. The current center of gravity of the metrorail system is downtown D.C. I continue to favor an aggressive build-out of Metrorail within the city limits, even if it is gaudily expensive, in order that we fully share in the benefits of these metrorail extensions to the outer suburbs. As it stands now, ridership into the city is bumping up against constraints in the 1960s plan.