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Local officials warn Airports Authority to clean up its act

Tuesday - 8/14/2012, 4:50pm  ET

Adam Tuss, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - The group overseeing construction of the Dulles Rail Project -- the largest transportation project in the D.C. area -- is suffering from a lack of accountability, transparency and sound judgment, according to local officials.

Those harsh words were part of a stern letter sent Tuesday by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and D.C. Mayor Vince Gray to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

"At the end of the day, we have found that MWAA is broken and we are committed to fixing it," Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton tells WTOP.

The MWAA was criticized recently for lavish spending on trips and doling out lucrative contracts to former board members, all while overseeing the nearly $6 billion Silver Line Metro expansion to Dulles International Airport.

"What the last year and a half has shown is that the organization, structure and culture at MWAA itself is not a very positive one or conducive to the short or long term interests of the Commonwealth," says Connaughton.

MWAA is being told to upgrade its procurement and travel policies and procedures, ethics code and bylaws, bringing them in line with the best federal practices, according to the letter.

"The board must undertake all of these actions and more if it is to regain the trust of the public we all serve," the letter reads.

MWAA says in an statement that it is carefully reviewing the letter:

"We are mindful that public trust is essential to the authority's success in performing its missions of operating Reagan National and Dulles International Airports, operating the Dulles Toll Road and building the Metrorail Silver Line," the statement reads. "We acknowledge the concerns of the secretary of transportation, our elected officials and others, and we are committed to restoring public trust wherever it is lost and to earning and assuring the confidence of the people we serve."

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)