Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dulles Rail - Governor Responds as Deadline Looms

Gov. Tim Kaine yesterday attacked a Virginia House measure that would force him to re-bid the ailing Dulles Rail project, arguing it would scrap a contract ?willy-nilly? and deter companies from doing business with the commonwealth. Today's Washington Examiner has all the details:

Two delegates - Dave Albo, R-Springfield, and Joe May, R-Leesburg - slipped the provision into an end-of-year budget bill passed by the House last week, seeking to put the 23-mile rail expansion?s first phase out for competitive bidding.

Proponents argue the move is an attempt to drive down the cost of the project after the Federal Transit Administration warned it is too expensive to receive a critical $900 million in federal funding, among other qualms. But Kaine, in an interview on WTOP?s ?Ask the Governor? radio program, questioned the benefits of dumping the existing construction contract with Bechtel Infrastructure and Washington Group International.

?You can?t just willy-nilly tell your contractor, ?Hey, you?re out the window - we?re going to rebid it,? because then nobody will want to do business with you ever again, if they felt like ?we went through a competitive process and we got a contract, you?re going to throw it out and rebid it?? ? Kaine said.

Meanwhile, yesterday's Fairfax Times reports that the looming deadline at the end of this month has made life difficult for those working on the project.

With the end of the month looming, officials for the Dulles Rail Project are busy working with the Federal Transit Authority to get the project approved before the current construction contract expires.

That situation could seem familiar because at the end of January all of those players were in the exact same position, until they agreed to a one-month extension in the contract, giving everyone involved more time to win over the FTA.

Now, that extension is about to expire, and sources close to the process say that the upcoming contract deadline has motivated a more intense effort to get a resolution for the foundering rail project.

The FTA could issue some sort of decision by Friday.

While all sides wait to see what, if anything, happens at the end of the month, the preliminary phase of the project continues in Tysons Corner. Every day, construction crews work to relocate utility lines along Route 7, a process that was supposed to occur concurrently with the beginning of the new rail line's construction.

"We're working with all the project parts and the contractor in discussions this week. ... We're looking for ways to move the contract forward," airports authority spokeswoman Tara Hamilton said.

And so the saga of Dulles Rail continues. Got any thoughts? Let us know.

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