WASHINGTON - The Federal Transit Administration has given the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority the green light to begin site preparation for the construction of the $5.2 billion Metrorail extension to Dulles International Airport, signaling that the $900 million of federal funds the project needs could follow.

In a one-page letter sent to the authority Thursday, FTA regional administrator Letitia A. Thompson told Charles S. Carnaggio, the project's director, that the MWAA could spend $14 million on site preparation for the project without jeopardizing possible federal funding as long as it continues to meet federal requirements. Thompson stressed, however, that its approval for funding of site preparation is not a guarantee that federal funds will be forthcoming.

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