Gov. Terry McAuliffe gets a Silver Line update

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (R) chats with an unidentified guest during a St. Patrick's Day reception in the East Room of the White House. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) chats with an unidentified guest during a St. Patrick’s Day reception in the East Room of the White House. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Officials at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will announce Thursday whether the contractor building the Silver Line rail project has completed its work — or whether it will need additional time beyond the 15-day review period to make that determination.

MWAA president and chief executive Jack Potter made the announcement following a closed-door meetingTuesday with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. At the meeting, the governor was given a status update on the much-delayed $5.6 billion Silver Line rail project, according to MWAA spokesman Chris Paolino.

McAuliffe (D) had requested the briefing last week following repeated reports of project delays. Among his primary concerns: passenger safety on the rail line as well as ensuring taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely.

“The governor is comfortable about the status of the project and is encouraged that lessons were learned during Phase 1 that will better position the project as it moves into Phase 2,” said Rachel Thomas, a spokeswoman for the governor.

Last Wednesday, there was more bad news for the rail project, which is seven months behind schedule and $150 million over budget. Pat Nowakowski, the executive director of the Silver Line project, announced that he would be leaving to take a job with another transit agency. Officials also revealed that problems with the rail system’s automatic train control system cannot be resolved and will require nearly $2 million in fixes and a year to complete. Officials with MWAA, which is overseeing construction of the rail project, and Metro, which will operate the rail line, have agreed on a work-around that will allow the Silver Line to open for passenger service, while the problem with the control system is being resolved.

But there was some good news: MWAA’s board of directors signed off on an agreement with the state of Virginia, which will contribute an additional $300 million to the rail project. The additional money comes as part of the transportation deal cut by McAuliffe’s predecessor, Robert F. McDonnell (R).

Among those present at Tuesday’s meeting at Dulles International Airport: Nowakowski; Rusty Connor, chairman of the MWAA board of directors; Ginger Evans, MWAA’s vice president for construction; Margaret McKeough, MWAA’s chief operating officer; and Andrew Rountree, MWAA’s chief financial officer.

Dulles Transit Partners, the contractor for the project, submitted documentation April 9 supporting its assertion that it had completed work on the first phase of the rail project opening a 15-day review period by MWAA officials. An earlier attempt by DTP was rejected after airport authority officials found the contractor failed to meet seven of 12 conditions required for the project to be considered “substantially complete.”

Lori Aratani writes about how people live, work and play in the D.C. region for The Post’s Transportation and Development team.
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