Politics, union issues could derail Silver Line project

WASHINGTON – The first phase of Metrorail service to Dulles is expected to be completed in August 2013, but a number of issues — everything from old-fashioned politics to the use of union labor — have stalled the second phase of the Silver Line.

The stalemate has some questioning whether the subway project will proceed from Reston to Dulles International Airport as originally planned.

The Washington Post reports U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has called a meeting to bring the biggest players — the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Virginia, and Loudoun and Fairfax counties — together Wednesday to try to reach an agreement so the $3 billion project can proceed, albeit on a schedule that is uncertain.

Here are some of the issues currently holding up the project:

  • Virginia lawmakers don’t want to contribute $150 million because the airports authority decided to give an incentive to bidders who use union labor.
  • After the election of new supervisors last year in Loudoun County, the new board has talked of pulling out of the project to save money. If Loudoun pulls out, financing deals would need to be renegotiated.
  • Loudoun County’s new board also sees the use of union labor as a deal-breaker.
  • A U.S. Transportation Department investigation into the airports authority’s management practices, transparency and governance is making it difficult for the authority to get political support.
  • Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton tells the Post the state is evaluating taking over the project, a move the airports authority says could turn into a legal mess.
  • Key players, namely LaHood and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, are leaving their posts and won’t be around when the project would be completed, at least five years from now. LaHood retires at the end of the year, and McDonnell’s term is up in 2014.

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