Just months ago, the McDonnell administration was negotiating with the MWAA over the terms of a mandatory project labor agreement for the second phase of construction, according to interviews with legislators and a review of correspondence to and from the governor’s transportation chief.
But facing pressure from conservative Republicans, McDonnell and his staff pulled back the administration’s support for a project labor agreement, or PLA, legislators from both parties say.
Now, the governor says that unless the MWAA abandons a PLA for the second phase of the rail line, the state will withhold a promised $150 million contribution.
Del. Joe T. May (R-Loudoun), chairman of the House Transportation Committee
who shepherded McDonnell’s MWAA-related legislation this session, called the initial language the McDonnell administration negotiated a “good compromise.”
May said he has been baffled by the administration’s shift on project labor agreements, likening the situation to the famous comedy routine by Abbott and Costello “Who’s on First?”
“There has been enormously changing ground rules,’’ he said. “This has been one of the more confusing issues.’’
Project labor agreements typically ensure certain wages and working conditions while barring strikes and providing managers with flexibility in making work assignments.
Such pacts are common in state and federal projects, and a voluntary PLA has been in place for the first phase of the Silver Line construction.
The fight over a mandatory PLA for Phase 2 is the latest crisis to confront Metro’s effort to extend the rail system.
This week, the MWAA board of directors is expected to vote on whether to press ahead with the labor agreement. So far, it has shown no inclination to drop it. The board’s decision could determine whether the Silver Line ever reaches Loudoun, where supervisors have said they won’t make an estimated $200 million contribution if the labor agreement goes forward.
The uncertainty surrounding what is one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects has all but ensured that it will be delayed.
Already, the latest debate has prompted planners to put off seeking bids from contractors to build the second phase of the Silver Line from Reston to Loudoun.
The first phase of the project, which runs through Tysons Corner to Wiehle Avenue, is expected to be finished in August 2013, about $150 million over budget. Planners had wanted to have bids out in early March to pick a contractor for Phase 2 but now say they are at a standstill until Virginia and the MWAA board work out a deal.