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Posted at 08:50 AM ET, 11/03/2011

More negotiations needed to contain Dulles rail cost

A member of the airports authority board that’s overseeing the Dulles rail Metro project said she’s concerned that negotiations with the contractor over some construction details aren’t further along and could drive up the cost.

Mame Reiley, who chairs the Dulles Corridor Committee of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), said she believes Bechtel — the lead contractor in building the first phase of the Dulles rail line — is “dragging their feet.”

MWAA and the contractor have been at odds over how much of a delay there will be in dealing with moving utility lines that are in the way of substations that need to be built, according to MWAA.

“We should have resolved this by now,” she said. Reiley said she believes Bechtel is waiting to resolve issues on the first phase until the bidding on the second phase of the project starts.

Bechtel is building the first phase of the project, which includes 11.5 miles of new rail from Falls Church through Tysons Corner to Reston. How to fund the second phase is still being decided.

“I’m going to fight and push that if this is not resolved they can’t bid on Phase 2,” Reiley said after Thursday’s MWAA board meeting.

Leslie Pereira, a spokeswoman for Dulles Transit Partners — the group led by Bechtel — said they have “been working in close cooperation with the airports authority to ensure the Dulles Metrorail project stays on schedule.”

“There are a myriad of challenges, both large and small, that can affect the schedule on a project of this size and complexity,” she wrote in an email.  “To the best of our knowledge, all outstanding issues have been addressed.  We remain confident we will be able to meet the project completion date.”

Pat Nowakowski, the executive director of the Dulles rail project for MWAA, said he’s been meeting with Bechtel to “resolve how we’ll get that work done and not lose schedule.”

MWAA has said the project should be finished by August 2013, but in progress reports Bechtel has said the utility issue could cause a delay of 194 days.

Nowakowski said, “We expect that we will recover the lost schedule time. We have worked with them on mitigation. They’ve submitted a plan. We have not yet accepted the mitigation plan but we’ll get to that point in the near future.”

The airports authority is also discussing construction costs for the new rail with Metro, which will assume responsibility once the project is complete, Nowakowski said. Officials have said Metro has requested changes that have added millions to the price tag.

“I think we’re going to have a conclusion on that in the near term,” he said.

   Reiley said she wants MWAA staff to resolve whether some of the changes the transit authority asked for were essential.

“We want to cut what’s nicety versus what’s needed,” she said.

The project has used more than 70 percent of its contingency funds, and there are still almost two years of construction ahead, although officials have said some of the most complex work has been done.

Metro chief spokesman Dan Stessel said the agency’s primary concern is the safety of the system.

“As we’ve said previously, we must ensure that the Dulles extension is built to the same safety and reliability standards as the rest of the Metrorail system,” he wrote in an e-mail. “The residents of Fairfax County and Loudon County deserve no less.

“Under our agreement, MWAA is responsible for building the extension to the standards of the rest of the Metrorail system,” he said. “Metro has and will continue to work with MWAA to manage project costs, including approval of numerous cost-saving measures that do not compromise safety or reliability.”

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By  |  08:50 AM ET, 11/03/2011

 
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