- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 16, 2001

Virginia will not withdraw from an accord with Maryland for financing the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge despite a federal judge's ruling that Maryland can use union-only project labor agreements (PLAs), a spokesman for Gov. James S. Gilmore III said yesterday.
Gilmore spokesman Reed Boatright said there is no reason for Virginia to back out of the ownership and financing agreement with Maryland and the District — which was approved Friday by the federal government — since the PLAs are not included in the pact.
Mr. Gilmore had vowed not to enter into any pact that would force Virginia to share in Maryland's cost overruns, especially if PLAs were used. Mr. Boatright said the agreement "has some very strong protections in it" and "Virginia will not pay for any cost overruns."
"We are only responsible for the Virginia contracts," he said.
The agreement allows the release of more than $1.3 billion in federal money and Maryland to retain ownership of the federal bridge, while splitting maintenance costs between Virginia and Maryland.
This week, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ruled that President Bush violated the National Labor Relations Act when he issued an executive order in February banning PLAs on projects in which federal dollars are involved.
PLA supporters say the agreements supply a steady stream of employment and keep insurance costs low. Opponents argue they exclude nonunion workers and raise costs because of a lack of competition in the work force.
Questions were raised as to whether Mr. Gilmore, a Republican and PLA opponent, would withdraw Virginia from the pact because of the ruling, possibly delaying construction on the bridge.
The bridge project is estimated to cost $2.4 billion and be complete in 2011. Each state has pledged $200 million and the federal government $1.5 billion for the project.
The new bridge will be built alongside the current 40-year-old bridge, which handles more traffic than it was designed for, with 190,000 vehicles crossing it daily.
Michael Morrill, a spokesman for Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat and PLA supporter, said "the PLAs have nothing to do with the financing agreement." Because the PLAs were not included in the agreement with Virginia, the issue of them being attached to future Maryland contracts "should be moot," he said.
"We're very happy to work under the agreements we signed," Mr. Morrill said.
Negotiations have begun with labor unions over the use of PLAs in the contract for the bridge superstructure Maryland advertised this week, Mr. Morrill said. That work is estimated to cost about $557 million.
The Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO said in a statement that "we are presently in negotiations we hope to have a new, modified agreement quickly."
Sources close to the negotiations said talks between the the unions and Maryland may be strained and more complicated than first thought. One source said that, since more than $140 million worth of contracts for foundation and dredging work were issued by Maryland without a PLA, it will be more difficult to get a standard set of work rules under a contract that has a PLA.
Bids on the contract are due by the end of next month, and Maryland officials may not issue the PLA guidelines until the middle of next month. A hearing on the temporary injunction Judge Sullivan issued is scheduled for Sept. 13.

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