The Dulles Rail Controversy: Kaine’s Response

So much for my predictions of a media firestorm. The Washington Post gave 10 paragraphs of space to a story about House Speaker William J. Howell’s criticisms of the Governor’s Rail-to-Dulles gambit — and that included three paragraphs of rebuttal. What the heck, it’s only the largest infrastructure project in the Washington New Urban Region, costing a projected $4 billion and impacting billions of dollars of future real estate development. Wouldn’t want to go overboard, would we?

Judging from the Post’s coverage, the Kaine administration’s strategy at this point is to simply ignore the Speaker’s criticisms. (See previous post, “Kaine has Stuck His Hand in the Hornet’s Nest.”) If the media ignores the criticisms and Kaine ignores them, maybe they will fade into oblivion. On the other hand, the response of Kevin Hall, the Governor’s press secretary, may simply reflect the questions posed by the reporter. If the reporter didn’t raise the Speaker’s criticisms point by point, Hall couldn’t very well answer them.

(Update: Jeff Schapiro’s article in the Times-Dispatch today noted that Kaine’s office “released an August letter to Howell from Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer addressing concerns on which the speaker went public yesterday.” Bacon’s Rebellion has obtained a copy of that letter. You can read it here.)

In any case, here’s how Chris L. Jenkins with the Post characterized the Kaine response:

Kaine’s press secretary said the deal has the support of GOP lawmakers in Congress and the House of Delegates whose constituents use the toll road, including Sen. John W. Warner and Reps. Frank R. Wolf and Thomas M. Davis III, as well as Fairfax Dels. Thomas Davis Rust and Vincent F. Callahan Jr. Kevin Hall, the press secretary, said Howell was flouting the support from powerful members of his own party.

“I would suggest that the speaker’s antics today were rash and irresponsible,” Hall said. He rejected Howell’s contention that the governor’s office had not adequately vetted other proposals. “This is a proposal that is supported . . . by the region’s congressional delegation, General Assembly delegation and business community,” he said. “The proposal will allow the faster and cheaper completion of the entire project.”

Supporters of the deal say it would remove much of the uncertainty surrounding the nearly $4 billion project to build a rail line through Tysons Corner, Reston and the
airport and into Loudoun County because the airports authority would assume responsibility for the state and federal portion of the cost.

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