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Rail on Track to Loudoun?

With project labor agreement and high cost to taxpayers and counties, Silver Line to Dulles International Airport has a chance of not happening.

Could Rail to Dulles really end up being Rail to Reston?

That possibility was discussed at "Silver Line: On Track to Loudoun," a panel discussion hosted by theat the on Wednesday.

With seven new members on the nine-member Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, many of the new board members have said they are undecided about whether to support the $2.7-billion Silver Line Phase 2, which will extend the rail from Reston's Wiehle Avenue to Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) and Fairfax County last week granted Loudoun County Supervisors an additional 30 days to  decide whether it will contribute to Phase 2, which is expected to cost Loudoun about $260 million for initial construction. Loudoun continues to discuss annual costs for operation and maintenance of the line with MWAA, currently estimated at $20 millon to $30 million. The Loudoun board, comprised of all Republicans, has until July 4 to decide whether to proceed.

"It will be a huge mistake if Loudoun opts out," Loudoun County Chairman Scott K. York said at the Chamber event. "If we fail, we will not become what we planned to be in our comprehensive plan."

York pointed out that Loudoun is one of the nation's fastest-growing and wealthiest counties, and transportation expansion has already been maximixed on Route 50, most of Route 7 and the Dulles Toll Road.

Rail "is going to cost us. But it will cost a heck of a lot more if they do it in the future," said York. "This is our last option. I have confidence in this board - they cannot look at this as how it will impact in one year, this decision will have impact for many decades."

Still, Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton says that the commonwealth is already planning for the possibility of a Phase 2 without Loudoun's participation.

"We have a very complex arrangement of contracts, agreements and permits," said Connaughton. "If Loudoun opts out, it changes the scope and funding. We would have to go back to square one. We are working with the Attorney General to explore options. This project has been on life support before, and in the emergency room several times. We have been looking for some time at what the impact would be" if Loudoun drops out.

One issue: whether unionized labor should be given an advantage in getting contracts for project. In screening bids, MWAA wants to give a 10-percent bonus to contractors who agree to a project labor agreement.

Several Loudoun supervisors said that if MWAA insists on such agreements for Phase 2, the votes might not be there to continue and the pledged $450 million from Virginia might be in jeopardy.

"MWAA is listening to concerns that are raised by the mandatory PLA," MWAA President and CEO Jack Potter said.

York said it should not be voluntary for Phase 1, scheduled to open in late 2013, and madatory for Phase 2.

"It should be a level playing field," he said. "Whether we are tight in the perception of the what a PLA does and does not do...frankly, I am seeing trouble getting the votes from my board."

Stephen Fuller, Director of George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis, says if the Silver Line does not reach Loudoun, it will have regionwide impact.

"It will change the capacity of the county to grow," he said. "It will be a real cost to the region as a global business center, not just a Federal one. "Metrorail is critical to maximizing the potential as the Washington area is growing."

Also discussed Wednesday: how to develop the area on Route 606 near Dulles.

Potter says MWAA will not be developing the land, but will work with Loudoun County and developers. He says this is a good opportunity to work a public-private parking garage project  - similar to the one being constructed at Reston's Wiehle Avenue Station.

"We have to find a way to make the project viable without taxpayers footing the bill," said York.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova said she has been encouraged by the success of the partnership with Comstock on the 2,300-space Wiehle Avenue garage and that the county has received interest for other public-private partnerships. The Board will discuss this at its next meeting (April 10), and Bulova says she hopes to begin negotiations for other projects this summer.

HardHatMommy March 28, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Why on earth would MWAA keep pushing for the discriminatory PLA preference when it clearly puts Loudoun County's dollars and the state's dollars in jeopardy? Phase 1 had an optional, voluntary PLA for the union members (about 40%) of the project; the other workers (nonunion) didn't have to sign the agreement. Removing the mandatory PLA and/or PLA preference will result in both union and nonunion workers building Phase 2 just as they did Phase 1. If you shut the door on the 97.4% of Virginia's construction workers who are not in a union, you constrict competition and raise the cost of the job. MWAA needs to get their priorities straight. Are they building affordable rail to Loudoun County or are they giving favors to their buddies?
Jeff Barnett March 28, 2012 at 07:39 PM
A PLA does NOT mandate union labor. Period. This is a complete falsehood.
HardHatMommy March 28, 2012 at 08:57 PM
So what is a PLA then Jeff? Safety, wages, procedures, schedule expectations are found in your good old fashioned construction contract. This MWAA board member Martire said this about the Project LABOR Agreement or PLA, "All this does is establish worker rules and where you get your workers from," said Martire, vice president of Laborers' International Union of North America. So where do you think Mr Martire, union executive and MWAA board member, thinks those workers should come from?
David A. LaRock March 28, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Rail is not the transit mode to bring Loudoun forward. It is a worn out relic that is promoted over its superior cousin Bus Rapid Transit because it brings a few land speculators into the money loop. Many of these weathy special interests can be found on York's money-in report at VPAP report with contractors and engineers http://www.vpap.org/candidates/profile/money_in_donors/27160?start_year=2010&end_year=2011&lookup_type=year York ignores that 100's of buses per hour could pass along the Dulles Access Road at a small fraction of the cost of rail. If Metro is so great, why is it so broke? AG Cuccinelli nailed it when he said Dulles Rail is a not a transportation project " It is a real estate deal" www.LoudounOpOut.com
David A. LaRock March 28, 2012 at 09:15 PM
www.LoudounOptOut.com
Bob Bruhns March 29, 2012 at 02:04 PM
'"We have to find a way to make the project viable without taxpayers footing the bill," said York.' Well Mr. York, you could start by creating a rail tax district in Loudoun County, so that lucky landowners near the Rt 606 and Rt 772 stations might pay a more fair share of the rail extension costs. As you must know, this was done in Fairfax County long ago, and our Phase II businesses have been paying into it for years. And as you also must know, it was discussed in Loudoun County two years ago, and then it was simply forgotten. You should also ask why Dulles Rail Phase II cost estimates are two times what the project should cost, and you should immediately demand justification from the official estimators for this job. But you and our other 'leaders' have managed to sidestep that action quite well. Why should toll road drivers and taxpayers pay for Dulles Rail Phase II, when your county's business landowners near the new stations, who will reap outrageous windfall profits, are not taxed appropriately? And why are you, and our other so-called leaders, always claiming to be looking for ways to pay for this rail line, and then doing NOTHING? This is beyond ridiculous.
Jack406 March 29, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Only mandates it if you want to win the contract.
Jack406 March 29, 2012 at 02:46 PM
This project is going to make the Toll Road to Reston and Rt 28 more expensive than the Greenway in Loudon County, and almost no one rides the Greenway because it is so expensive. Get ready for even more people on Rt 7, Old Georgetown Pike, and Old Courthouse Road. People won't pay $5 each way for the toll road. And the Metro to Dulles doesn't help people in Reston or Loudon county anyway. Let the people in DC pay. They are the ones who will use it to get to the airport.
John Lovaas March 29, 2012 at 04:30 PM
The financing for Phase 2 has been done by the seat of the pants ever since the project was split in two parts. Fairfax County and the Commonwealth of VA have bungled this from the start. Thinking that they could likely fall back on tolls, they did not take the trouble to line up county, state and Federal funding for this link to the nation's capital's number one airport. Now, they face the just rebellion of the citizens they thought would roll over for through the roof tolls. Turns out, maybe we won't, and maybe the banks who'd have to issue the bonds for toll-based repayment realized that, too. As for the Project Labor Agreement concept which does recognize the contribution of organized working men and women being the problem with the project cost or financing, that's just another political red herring by the Republicans and supportive media!
HardHatMommy March 29, 2012 at 05:22 PM
The Project Labor Agreement discriminates against Virginia's construction workforce of which 97.4% choose not to be in a union. That's no red herring. That's reality. Virginia projects are built by both union and non-union workers without mandatory PLAs all the time. Let the winning contractor decided whether or not to use a voluntary PLA. Open competition is good for all parties involved. It's ridiculous to think we should block all of the qualified workers Virginia has to offer. Both union and non-union should build this job. For that to happen, MWAA must drop the PLA preference scam.
Bob Bruhns April 02, 2012 at 06:10 PM
We have been tricked. There is a financial audit going on (since March 15, 2012) that for some VERY STRANGE reason has not been reported by the news media in all the time since it began. Kudos to Tax Pig for getting this story out. Bronx Cheer to the news media for looking the other way. Audit Initiated of Phase 2 of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project March 15, 2012 Project ID: 12M3001M00 http://www.oig.dot.gov/library-item/5747 Full PDF Document: http://www.oig.dot.gov/sites/dot/files/Dulles%20Phase%202%20Announcement%20Letter%5E3-19-12.pdf
Tax Pig April 07, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Is Chairman Scott York right when he claims Metro to Loudoun is the only way to expand transit capacity between Loudoun County and Washington DC? Loudoun could choose to expand the fleet of Express Buses that already carry people to and from Washington along the existing Dulles Access Road. Expanding this service would be easy, efficient and affordable. A Loudoun based Express Bus service could continue to be the best choice. Is it true we need to buy into Metro NOW? The answer is NO. Some say buying in now will avoid paying more if we wait. They point the projects history of soaring costs. Dulles Rail construction costs increased from an initial estimate of $1.9 billion in 2000 to about $7.0 billion today. Why? Escalating cost is due to poor management by The Airports Authority (MWAA). Listen to what Congressman Wolf has to say, “... the U.S. Department of Transportation’s inspector general has 13 staffers working on an MWAA audit that he requested...In the last four or five years the thing just went astray,” he said. “Something’s gone wrong.” All this tells me the commonsense remedy would be for Loudoun to Opt Out of Metro to Loudoun and take control of its own transit needs rather than being pushed around by MWAA and wasting money.
John Lovaas April 08, 2012 at 10:43 AM
Why should Loudoun County taxpayers be dragged into the early 20th century and pay the high costs of these new tangled BRT buses?! Ask the "Cootch"! Horses pulling the latest in used coach boxes will do just fine for the common folk. Furthermore, think of all the money Loudoun's upper crust will save by not having to pay for all those minimum wage, no benefits laborers From rural VA or China! The no-tax heaven, third world county New Rebublicans elsewhere can only dream of!
Broheme April 08, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Wow, you actually made no sense whatsoever.
Tax Pig April 08, 2012 at 05:12 PM
John, are you smokin something with rail lover CC MOJO?
Rob Jones April 12, 2012 at 03:28 AM
Um, if you wouldn't mind putting your drink down... We the People of Loudoun would like to do almost exactly as you suggest, by not paying for MWAA's select unionized work force inflated wages plus a 10% bonus for the party bosses. And buses would be much cheaper, move more people to more places, and if your horse goes 65 mph down the Greenway, so much the better. Cheers.
HardHatMommy April 12, 2012 at 10:59 AM
The P!A has nothing to do with wages. That's all set in stone with a job like this. On phase 1 you had both union and nonunion making the same wage and benefit scale. You obviously don't know much about this kind of work. Furthermore, to characterize 97.4% of Virginia's construction workers as "minimum wage no benefits laborers from rural VA or China" is rude and so incredibly off base. Virginia workers pass the same litmus test as PA, MD, and DC's union workforce. DOL, OSHA and all of the other regulatory agencies are blind to labor affiliation. You have to pass the same tests so to suggest that somehow non-union is inferior is absolutely false. Virginia renovated the Pentagon after 9/11, we built the $1.7billion NGA project ahead of schedule and under budget, we have built monuments, universities, and beautiful structures that we all live work and play within. And we've done that with our union friends, without a PLA.

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