- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority members had a message Wednesday for officials from Virginia, Fairfax and Loudoun counties and the federal government regarding the second phase of the Dulles Metrorail project: The ball’s in your court.

The 13-member board has already reversed its decision amid public outcry and will build an above-ground Metro station instead of a more-expensive underground one at the Washington Dulles National Airport.

And now, the board says, the counties, the federal government and Virginia must do their part in helping finance the multibillion-dollar project.

“We’re going to do what we’re going to do, and everyone else is going to do what they said they were going to do, and if not, there’s not going to be a deal,” said authority board Chairman Charles Snelling.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been brokering discussions among the parties on a plan to shave roughly $1 billion off the $3.5 billion price for the second phase of the project, which will stretch from Wiehle Avenue in Reston to the airport.

The board and both counties have signed a conditional agreement, in which Fairfax and Loudoun would assume the cost of a rail station and five parking garages in their jurisdictions as long as they get sufficient financing, including federal loans.

But the fine print still needs to be worked out, said Phil Sunderland, the authority’s general counsel.

“An unequivocal statement of that commitment has not yet been given,” he said. “Defining that muscle and tissue is going to take some work.”

Officials will meet to hash out garage and parking-station commitments before stakeholders attend another meeting at the Department of Transportation at the end of August.

The first leg, to run from East Falls Church to Wiehle Avenue, is expected to open in 2014, and the second leg in 2017.

Fairfax County Chairman Sharon Bulova said the county would continue to negotiate in good faith to see that the project gets completed.

“We all had a plan for how we were going to pay,” she said. “Fairfax County is being asked to fund more of the project outside of the original funding plan. … No one’s reneging on anything. Fairfax County, Loudoun County and MWAA have agreed on the proposal.”

Mr. LaHood has indicated that low-interest loans would be made available to the counties to defray some of the costs they would be assuming and entice potential public-private partnerships for constructing the parking garages.

Authority board member Mame Reiley said she hopes the federal government will kick in $700 million to $1.2 billion in Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loans, and that Virginia would put in an additional $500 million.

Virginia has indicated it might contribute additional funding for the second phase of the project, but officials have expressed concerns over a mandatory project labor agreement to which the authority board has agreed.

Opponents argue that the agreement — between a contractor and one or more labor groups that sets specific work schedules, wages and worker benefits — could run afoul of Virginias right-to-work law.

Mr. Snelling attempted to quash that Wednesday.

“I’m not at all concerned the [labor agreement] wasn’t mentioned,” he said. “And we have, as part of our negotiations, said that the [agreement] will be consistent with Virginia law.”

Supporters say such an agreement — voluntarily adopted by Dulles Transit Partners after winning the bid for the $2.75 billion first phase of the project — has led to a well-trained workforce, a steady supply of union construction workers and a cost-effective project.

Pat Nowakowski, executive director of the project, said work on the first leg is on time and on budget, though $187 million of $312 million of contingency funds for the project have already been spent.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide