U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Dist. 10) has introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to create a permanent, full-time inspector general for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority — the organization charged with overseeing Metrorail’s Silver Line extension into Loudoun County.
Wolf calls the Metrorail extension, often referred to as “Rail to Dulles,” the “most important transportation project” in Virginia. Phase 1 of the Silver Line extension began in 2009 and is scheduled to be completed in 2013; Phase 2, if it proceeds with the current funding partners, is expected to be finished in 2018. Once complete, Metrorail will run to Washington Dulles International Airport and into Ashburn.
“The continued growth of the Dulles corridor demands this project be successful,” Wolf said in a statement announcing the bill, House Resolution 5322. The legislation will charge a MWAA inspector general with the sole duty of overseeing the authority’s operations. Wolf’s proposal would mandate MWAA pay for the new position.
The 16-term congressman said he’s introducing the legislation in anticipation of a May 15 interim report on the contracting, governance and transparency practices of MWAA. The report currently is being conducted by the inspector general at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
MWAA’s board of directors has been the target of criticism from Virginia officials, especially Republicans, for its management of the construction. Additional concerns remain about MWAA board members continuing to serve after their terms have expired, and an ongoing fight over project labor agreements for Phase 2.
Republican state officials, including some Loudoun County supervisors, have voiced the possibility of withholding $150 million in state funding if the airports authority doesn’t remove its support for using a PLA on Phase 2.
Seen by some as a collective bargaining agreement, a PLA applies to a specific project and can set uniform wages, benefits and work rules for the project.
Currently, MWAA has in place an incentive that adds a 10 percent bonus to the final evaluation of bidding companies that show they’ll use union labor.
Opponents argue PLAs increase costs by mandating the use of union labor, while advocates of the agreements argue they improve safety and help ensure a project is completed on time and on budget.
While onlookers have questioned why Phase 2 of the project isn’t in line to receive any federal funding, Dan Scandling, a spokesman for Wolf’s office, said planning for the Silver Line extension always has dictated that federal dollars — $900 million — would be available only for Phase 1, which ends at Wiehle Avenue in Reston.