As we've been reporting, Virginia is balking at a premium for union contracts on the project, and is threatening to pull funding.
Officials say Lahood, concerned that a crucial economic development project may be thwarted, has invited representatives from the Governor's office, MWAA, WMATA and Loudon and Fairfax counties to participate in the meeting.
Meantime, the Washington Airports Task Force issued the following statement today:
"We call upon all Dulles Rail funding stakeholders—MWAA leaders, federal, state and local government leaders, and WMATA’s management—to focus on resolving the issues concerning the second phase, in order to find the common ground that will enable Phase 2 of the Dulles Metrorail Project to move smartly forward to Dulles Airport and Loudoun County. In so calling, we applaud the further effort of U.S. Secretary Ray LaHood to save this project.
"The MWAA has managed Phase 1 essentially on cost and on time. It is now time to focus on the real issues, which are:
1) Funding Phase 2 without placing an unreasonable burden on Toll Road users.
2) Dropping the PLA preference, and instead requiring the contractor to provide a well-qualified and reliable workforce to build Phase 2 in a similar manner to Phase 1. The successful contractor should be left with the ability to use every tool in their toolbox to complete Phase 2 safely, within budget, on time and in conformance with Virginia’s right to work laws.
"America has built its greatness upon a pragmatic approach to business, science and politics. Pragmatism means working together to achieve what is best for the common good, and surrendering extreme desires in the interest of that common good.
"Extension of rail to Dulles/Loudoun County is a “Game Changer” for the whole region. The Dulles Metrorail Project will link the Dulles Corridor to the rest of the region. This project will benefit:
Ø Virginia, through increased revenue from the support of economic and employment growth in Northern Virginia.
Ø The District of Columbia, through economic and employment growth, and improved access to its international gateway for tourism.
Ø Maryland, by linking the entire Metrorail system to a corridor that now constitutes 25% of the entire Metro Region’s economy, bringing Maryland employers closer to Virginia residents and vice versa.
"It is unconscionable to think that, as a region, we would not move swiftly forward with the second phase of the Dulles Metrorail Project. If we did allow the project to fail, how could we, as one of the nation’s wealthiest areas, expect to solve the bigger transportation issues challenging our region, including swift multi-modal access between activity centers, relief for our congested highways, and creation of an effective, fair, sustainable source of regional infrastructure funding? "
Everyone on both sides of the battle over this decision --- the Airports Authority and Virginia's political leaders -- agree an underground station would be more convenient for travelers. And yet, with the Authority's vote today, that won't be happening.
"I will be embarrassed that the international gateway airport for the capital of my country has a slipshod station like this, says Bob Brown, a federal appointee to the Airports Board. "This is an embarrassment and an outrage, I'm sorry to say that."
The underground option that the Airports Authority chose in April would've cost almost half a billion dollars more than an above ground alternative, and the Board was under tremendous political pressure to reverse course.
Tom Davis, a Airports Board member and former Congressman, voted against the underground option in April, but says he understands why Brown and his other colleagues pushed so hard for it.
"Bob is looking at this from a visionary point of view -- where do you want this airport to be in 50, 75 years," says Davis. "And I think, all things being equal, I would've been with him."
However, Davis says in this financial climate, and in an election year in Virginia, it was just not possible to win over the political leaders who'd have to pay the extra cost. The underground station, Davis says, is just a victim of circumstance.
But now that the matter of where the Metro station should go has been decided, the negotiations are far from over. In fact, you could say the negotiations have only just begun.The Airports Authority agreed to drop its plans for an underground Metro station only on the condition that Virginia contribute an additional 150 million dollars to the Dulles Metrorail project. Without this money, Authority officials say they can’t make the project’s financial ends meet.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell says he won’t even discuss contributing more money until the Airports Authority makes changes to its labor agreement, passed in April. It requires all contractors working on the project to conform to union-level standards for wages, benefits and skills.
The Authority says this will streamline the project's operations, but McDonnell says the agreement might violate Virginia’s right-to-work laws.
For more, visit WAMU News.