- The Washington Times - Friday, November 30, 2001

Virginia is urging Attorney General John Ashcroft to appeal a federal judge's decision that struck down President Bush's executive order banning union-favored labor agreements on projects funded with federal dollars, such as the Woodrow Wilson Bridge replacement.
In a letter to Mr. Ashcroft dated Nov. 28, Attorney General Randolph A. Beales said Virginia will file a friend of the court, or amicus, brief should the Justice Department pursue an appeal of U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan's Nov. 7 decision.
"We wanted to let Attorney General Ashcroft know how important this appeal and a quick completion of the replacement Woodrow Wilson Bridge are to Virginia," Beales spokesman Randy Davis said. "We strongly support President Bush's executive order that would facilitate faster construction of the bridge by prohibiting project labor agreements on federally funded projects such as the Wilson Bridge. We fully support the Justice Department on this case and the president's handling of this matter."
The ruling by Judge Sullivan, a Clinton appointee, overturned Mr. Bush's February executive order and allowed Maryland to go forward with negotiations with labor unions on contracts it issues for construction of the bridge.
The Justice Department has until Jan. 7 to decide whether it will appeal, but sources said Mr. Ashcroft is likely to do so.
The purpose of PLAs, Mr. Beales wrote in the letter, "is to require potential bidders to agree to in advance that they will use only union hiring halls, operate according to union work rules, make contributions to union funds, and otherwise grant unions various rights and privileges."
Maryland officials, led by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, maintain the project labor agreements (PLAs) will result in lower construction costs and fewer delays. Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III, a Republican, has said the PLAs will only lead to increased construction costs, limit the labor force and cause delays.
The two states have each committed $200 million to the $2.4 billion, 12-lane bridge, which connects Prince George's County and Alexandria on Interstate 95 over the Potomac River.
The federal government has provided $1.5 billion to the project, expected to be completed between 2004 and 2006.
Virginia Attorney General-elect Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican, will follow through on any future legal action regarding the PLAs and the Wilson Bridge, Mr. Kilgore's transition spokesman said.
"Jerry believes that while people in Northern Virginia are sitting in gridlock, the last thing we need is slow down the bridge's construction," Bernie McNamee said.
The letter to Mr. Ashcroft also states that Mr. Kilgore would help the Justice Department in any appeals.
Gov.-elect Mark R. Warner, a Democrat, is said to be supportive of Virginia's current position. Calls to Mr. Warner's transition office were not returned yesterday.
Maryland Transportation Department spokesman Jack Cahalan said his state is fully committed to the PLAs and believes they are effective in keeping costs down and the project on track.
"Clearly, on a project of this scope and magnitude, we have always maintained that PLAs are an effective way to manage the project and get the bridge built on schedule," Mr. Cahalan said.
Maryland extended the deadline for contract bids to Dec. 13, because of concerns over using PLAs.
Still, Mr. Cahalan said he does not expect any delays in construction of the bridge.
"We're sticking to the timeline," Mr. Cahalan said.


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