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Fairfax County Board Defers Metrorail Vote

The board reached a decision after a two-hour public hearing.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors deferred until April 10 a vote on the county’s participation in Phase II of the Dulles Metrorail project after a public hearing Tuesday night.

Dulles Rail has been a contentious topic since its inception, and Tuesday night was no different. More than 20 county residents voiced their support for or opposition to the $2.7 billion project during the two-hour forum. Virginia Del. Barbara Comstock (R-McLean) and former county board chairman Kate Hanley were among the speakers, about half of whom supported the project.

"Rail is necessary for the long-term economic health and development of Fairfax County," said Mark Ingrao of the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce. "It is our responsibility as a community to finish what we started."

Hanley also supported Fairfax County's involvement. "Historically, this has been the most popular transportation project in the region," she said. "This board and previous boards have voted a number of times to keep the train on track to Dulles, and I hope tonight you will do it again ... All of Fairfax County will benefit."

Stations from Phase I of the project are already under construction, but if the county opts out of Phase II, the three proposed stations in Fairfax County would not be built. Many supporters of the project think that's wasting an investment in the first phase.

"This was never meant to be the 'Rail to Reston,'" Ingrao said.

But many residents who live in the Dulles corridor are concerned about drastic toll increases to the Dulles Toll Road, disagreeing with current plans to have vehicle tolls shoulder more than 50 percent of the Phase II cost. According to a Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA) report, a one-way trip could increase from $2.25 to $4.50 in a year, and to $6.75 by 2018. 

Terry Maynard of the Reston 2020 committee called the current funding format "grossly unfair," urging the board to put any decisions on hold until a better funding scheme can be found.

"To do otherwise is imprudent, impractical and unjust,” he said.

Tammi Petrine, also with Reston 2020, agreed.

"The use of wildly excessive Toll Road revenues to fund Metrorail construction is unjustified and risky," she said.

Springfield Supervisor Pat Herrity also had apprehensions about the Toll Road's burden. "My concern is, are we going to do more damage with the tolls even with the economic benefit of rail," he said.

Thomas Cranmer, a representative of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance, said the second phase had potential to be a disaster. "This is probably the worst commercially planned project I have seen in 40 years," he said. "I hope that you will not approve this project." 

MWAA's Project Labor Agreement (PLA) was another point of controversy. The agreement, which the MWAA board adopted by an 11-0 vote, gives contractors incentive with a 10 percent credit on their technical evaluation scores if they use union labor. Residents and legislators alike worried this would make for an uneven playing field for bidders. 

"We believe that Dulles Rail is the most important transportation and construction project for our region in decades," said Christian Deschauer of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce. "And we are not opposed to the voluntary use of PLA when they follow a fair, transparent and competitive bidding process where all bids are treated equally. The effect of the decision of MWAA board, however, is that it puts any contractor who declines to include a PLA in their bid at such a disadvantage, that inclusion of [one] becomes a de facto mandate."

Comstock has spearheaded legislation that could jeopardize the $150 million the state has said it will contribute to the project. House Bill 33 prohibits discrimination against bidders in the procurement of services, and she claims the PLA discriminates against Virginia's nonunion workers.

"The MWAA Board continues to be very disfunctional," Comstock said. "Taking those preferences and those mandates out releases the state money and allows us to move forward."

Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay did not want to see that money disappear. The $150 million is to reduce the hurt from increased tolls, which would only get worse without it. "It is very important to the taxpayers and the users of this toll road that the state make its contribution," McKay said.

The decision to defer until April 10 came after a motion by the board Tuesday morning to allow the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors 30 extra days to review their decision to participate in Phase II. In a statement, chairman Sharon Bulova said Loudoun County requested the extra time because of turnover on their board after the November 2011 election.

Tammi Petrine March 21, 2012 at 07:02 PM
As Mark Ingrao states in the article above, the Silver Line "was never meant to be the 'Rail to Reston.'" Reston NEEDS the line to be completed, just not at the current exorbitant price to the consumers and tax payers. Let's "even the playing field" on EVERYTHING: the landowners who stand to make incredibly handsome profits on their properties flanking the corridor, the contractors operating in the current system, the agencies controlling the project AND the tax payers especially the DTR users. Sounds like a plan to me...
mdennis74 March 22, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Anyone who thinks Union Labor is the cause of over-runs should look at the Springfield Interchange: very late and EXTREMELY over budget, without a PLA. Whereas Dulles phase 1 is pretty much right on target. A PLA might increase costs, or it might not. What it is proven to do, is provide certainty: work rules, schedule systems, job qualifications, and work orders are all agreed at a set price in advance. So, if there's an issue, it's on the union, not on the contractor. This certainty has to be worth something, given VDOT's experience with the Springfield Interchange - those were exactly the issues that caused a lot of their over-runs!
mdennis74 March 22, 2012 at 02:10 AM
Now, an audit, there's an idea I could get behind. The reason these things go haywire isn't because of labor, it's because of management.
HardHatMommy March 26, 2012 at 03:18 PM
MWAA needs to back down from its PLA preference and make it easy for Virginia and Loudoun to show them the money for this project. The PLA is a total scam. It is very rare to see a PLA on a Virginia job. The vast majority are constructed without PLAs. A handful, such as Phase 1 of Dulles Rail, have voluntary / optional PLAs. Why does MWAA all of a sudden want to force a PLA on the job before it is even won? Oh, so that they can give a handout to their buddies and cut the majority of Virginia's workforce out of the bidding process. What a shame.
Bob Bruhns April 02, 2012 at 05:23 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. 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 Also, in the present MWAA plan, there is an unnecessary loop of more than three miles of elevated track, and an unnecessary elevated station at Dulles Airport. This design needs to be changed to a much lower cost dead-end spur design. Such a design could place the rail station closer to the air terminal, possibly even underground AT the air terminal, at lower cost than the present 'aerial' plan. DCMP Phase II Routing Map: http://www.dullesmetro.com/documents/Dulles-Metrorail-Project-Program_map-2-9-12.jpg DCMP Phase II Overview: http://www.dullesmetro.com/pdfs/12JAN25_Overview%20Fact%20Sheet_v5_with%20date.pdf DCMP Main Page: http://www.dullesmetro.com/

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