Wolf’s MWAA Proposal Is a Trojan Horse to Screw Labor, Strip Local Control

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    For good reason, many people – myself included – are extremely frustrated with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) these days. For instance, the Fairfax Times has called MWAA’s decision to opt for a far-more-expensive ($300 million more) tunnel at Dulles Airport “highway robbery.”  Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova and other local officials (e.g., Loudoun County Board member Scott York, Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton) wrote a letter to MWAA complaining that MWAA’s board “bypassed its funding partners and gave no consideration to the fiscal impact of this decision on Fairfax County, Loudoun County, the Commonwealth, and those who use the Dulles Toll Road.” And, they declared, “To state our position very clearly, we cannot and will not fund the additional cost of the tunnel alternative in Dulles Airport when an alternative, which is much less expensive and can be constructed with less risk and in a shorter period of time, exists as an aerial alignment at the North Garage.” On and on it goes, with the question at this point being, what next?

    Enter our old friend Frank Wolf and his legislation “to allow members of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to be replaced more easily and to give the Commonwealth of Virginia greater representation on the panel, now a 13-member regional board.” In addition, “Wolf also wants to make sure that board members leave when their terms expire instead of the present practice of serving until a replacement is appointed.”

    My first reaction? Good; right now, MWAA is totally unaccountable and seemingly out of control, it’s long past time that they were reined in. My second reaction, after thinking about this for a few seconds and emailing a few knowledgeable people? Not so positive, to put it mildly. A few key problems with Wolf’s approach:

    1. The provision in Wolf’s legislation, allowing the Governor to replace sitting board members on a whim or whatever, is a big mistake. If passed, this would theoretically allow Gov. Mcdonnell, if he so desires, to kick all the Democrats off MWAA and replace them with Republicans. Then, the newly-appointed Republicans could do what they really want to do here — reverse the decision to use a “Project Labor Agreement” on phase II, putting hundreds of union workers out of work.  In short, Mcdonnell/Wolf are using MWAA’s underground station decision and rising project costs to screw labor.

    2. Under Wolf’s plan, local control by those who pay much of the cost of Metro in Virginia would be lost. In Maryland, for instance, the state pays the full freight for Metro. Not so in Virginia, where local jurisdictions and special taxing districts shoulder much of the burden. Now, Wolf wants to not only make the localities (Loudoun, Fairfax, etc.) pay, but also shift authority away from them to the state level? Last I checked, that was called “taxation without representation,” and I believe we had a little revolution about that a couple hundred years ago? 🙂

    Other than that, Frank Wolf’s approach is brilliant! (snark) Seriously, stuff like this makes me hope that candidates like John Douglass (D) help give the 10th CD new Congressional representation in 2012. It’s long, long overdue.

    • listlady

      The relationship between MWAA and Metro? McDonnell is also trying to dilute the NoVa role on the Metro board but that’s separate, isn’t it?

    • I have been a consistent champion of Northern Virginia’s top transportation priority, the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, working throughout my public career with local, state and federal partners to advance this critical project.  After nearly 50 years, and with the help of dozens of committed leaders including Senator John Warner, Governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and former Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Kate Hanley, construction is moving forward on Phase I of the project through Tysons Corner and to Reston.  Phase I of Rail to Dulles is on time and under budget, and in just a few short years will begin operation.

      As we turn our attention to ensuring the timely construction of Phase II to Dulles Airport, I am growing increasingly concerned that rising project costs, exacerbated by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s decision for a more costly underground station at Dulles Airport, could place an undue and unfair financial burden on Dulles Toll Road users.  I urge MWAA to move expeditiously to identify savings in other areas of the project to offset the additional $300 million cost to construct the preferred underground station.  If such savings cannot be identified, MWAA should explore financing options to fund the cost through airport user fees, not toll increases.  Absent one of those two actions, MWAA should opt for the less expensive aboveground station option at Dulles Airport.

      We must not lose sight of the importance of this project to Northern Virginia’s continued economic success.  The Dulles Corridor is the premier international gateway for tourism and commerce in the Commonwealth and continues to attract highly-prized businesses, including Fortune 500 and technology companies.  I pledge to continue working for responsible and cost-effective solutions to ensure that the region’s premiere airport and the premiere economic corridor in our region are linked by rail with the Nation’s Capital.

    • Jeff Barnett

      Rail-to-Dulles is an underfunded disaster. The single biggest problem is Frank Wolf’s failure to get proper federal funding. Of the $6.25 billion projected cost, only 14% comes from the Federal government. The nationwide average for Federal funding of mass-transit rail is 38%. Rail projects in Dallas and Seattle, with no federal impacts, got 42-50% federal funding. Rail-to-Dulles should have received at least that much if not more. After all, connecting our Nation’s capital by rail to its international airport is a federal interest. But Frank Wolf only got 14% for us, despite being on the Appropriations Committee. If Wolf had done his job and just obtained the nationwide average, we would have an additional $1.5 billion dollars for Rail-to-Dulles. That would pay for parking garages at the new stops, an underground station at Dulles, cuts to tolls on 267, and decent wages for the construction crews. Wolf let us down on Rail-to-Dulles. We will be living with his failure for decades.