- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 6, 2001

U.S. Rep. James P. Moran yesterday said Virginia risks not getting the remaining $1.3 billion in federal funds for the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge because the state does not have the money for its share of the construction project and is not following federal guidelines.
In a tersely worded letter to Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III, the Alexandria Democrat said he is "deeply troubled" by the state "phasing in" projects like work on the Telegraph Road extension as a way to lower costs.
"The real issue confronting the Commonwealth is funding," Mr. Moran wrote in the letter dated yesterday. "In light of the impending [U.S. Department of Transportation] Inspector Generals report, there appears to be a real possibility that the Secretary of Transportation will not release the federal funds because, as of this date, the state has failed to identify how it will pay for its share."
Virginia and Maryland each have committed $200 million to the project, which is expected to be completed by 2006. As The Washington Times first reported last fall, Virginia has on hand $35 million of that $200 million allocation. Those funds exist as federal loans that will be repaid with future federal transportation money the state expects to receive plus interest.
The Transportation Department inspector generals office issued part of its report on the bridge last month, but later took it back, saying it would wait to see Maryland and Virginias final financing agreement before making a judgment, according to Virginia Transportation Secretary Shirley J. Ybarra.
Miss Ybarra said each of Mr. Morans complaints — from Virginias supposed lack of funding to its not using federally required congestion-mitigation efforts — are based on old information the inspector general used in its report.
"That document [the financing agreement], as you might guess, looks differently today," Miss Ybarra said.
In his letter, Mr. Moran contends that "given the severe disruptions on the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge have had on the entire metropolitan region," Maryland and Virginia should try to minimize the impact of construction, which he says the two states are not doing.
Miss Ybarra strongly objected to Mr. Morans claim, saying Virginia, at least, is "trying to make sure [construction] is consumer-friendly."
"Phasing in" projects, Miss Ybarra said, will make commuters lives easier and not increase construction costs, as Mr. Moran said he believes it will.
Miss Ybarra said Mr. Moran is just now getting involved in the issue while Virginia and Maryland are just putting the finishing touches on the financing and ownership agreement, which was required by Congress for the states to get $1.5 billion in federal funds.
The states still need about $1.3 billion to complete the project; about $200 million already has been spent this year to start dredging and foundation work.


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