Maryland and Virginia are closer to receiving the $1.3 billion in federal funds they need to replace the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, as the financing agreement between the states awaits Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore IIIs approval, officials in both states say.
Mr. Gilmores tough line against union-only labor deals in building the bridge paid off when the Bush administration banned such project labor agreements (PLAs).
Now, as the Virginia governor considers the final financing proposal, he has more influence in the bridges construction. Maryland owns the Potomac River under a colonial charter and is primarily responsible for building the bridge.
Gilmore spokesman Reed Boatright said he expects the governor to make an announcement regarding the proposal sometime next week after returning from a European trade mission.
Maryland officials, including Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari, signed off on the proposal about two weeks ago and sent it to Virginia officials. A spokeswoman for Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening said the plan “incorporates the changes we wanted and that Virginia wanted.”
Jack Cahalan, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said the new proposal is actually similar to one offered three years ago and agreed to by Mr. Glendening.
“Its how potential overruns would be handled and how the long-term ownership responsibilities would be handled,” Mr. Cahalan said. “We are close to reaching one more milestone on this project.”
Mr. Gilmore must sign off on the proposal before it goes to the Federal Highway Administration for final approval, which could take up to 60 days.
Sources close to the proposal say Mr. Gilmore is inclined to give the go-ahead to a plan that would give Virginia more control over contracts related to the new 12-lane spans construction and any potential cost overruns related to them.
After the federal government approves the proposal, Virginia and Maryland will receive the more than $1.3 billion Congress approved last year. The money had been held up while the two states tussled over cost overruns.
The new Wilson Bridge is expected to be complete in 2006, with heavy truck traffic diverted off the bridge in 2004. The twin 12-lane span is estimated to cost $2.2 billion and is funded with $1.5 billion in federal money and $200 million from each state. About $175 million of the federal governments contribution was released last summer to pay for dredging and foundation work in the Potomac River.
Virginia and Maryland have been in negotiations for months, with Mr. Gilmore and Mr. Glendening debating whether Virginia should pay for cost overruns Maryland might incur.
Mr. Glendening, a Democrat, insisted on using PLAs in the bridges construction and that Virginia share in any cost overruns. Maryland is the state issuing contracts for the bridges construction.
Mr. Gilmore, a Republican, said the PLAs would drive up construction costs and refused to share potential overruns.
“Virginia taxpayers shouldnt be saddled with an unlimited bill run up by the state of Maryland,” the governor has said through spokeswoman Lila White.
Since President Bush banned PLAs on federally funded projects during his first month in office, the two states have been quietly negotiating the proposal. But Mr. Glendening and Mr. Gilmore have publicly maintained their long-held positions.
Mr. Boatright declined to elaborate on details of the proposal, but said “our people are reviewing costs,” adding that statements about Virginias refusal to pay for cost overruns “stand for the time being.”
“Were looking further at the implications” of the proposal, Mr. Boatright said.