“This project will die if the stakeholders cannot get together and resolve their differences,” said Leo J. Schefer, head of the Washington Airports Task Force, a group of business leaders that supports the Silver Line.
If the project ever does start, it won’t start on time.
The Silver Line’s first phase, which runs through Tysons Corner to Wiehle Avenue, is now under construction and is expected to be completed in August 2013. The second phase is expected to run from Reston to Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County.
But the airports authority hasn’t been able to solicit bids yet for Phase 2, and construction was scheduled to start in spring 2013.
The biggest problem, according to Schefer and others: chest-thumping and good, old-fashioned politics.
“Underlying all of this is party political extremes that are being put ahead of public purpose,” Schefer said. “It’s become an emotional issue.”
Some Virginia lawmakers have adamantly said they don’t want the right-to-work state to contribute $150 million to the project’s nearly $3 billion construction cost because MWAA has decided to give potential contractors a 10 percent incentive if their bids favor union labor.
Another complication is that some of the biggest players, including U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, are headed out of office, which would leave a new set of officials to see Phase 2 through to completion.
LaHood, who helped negotiate a deal last fall on how to finance the second phase of the project, has said he plans to retire at the end of the year. McDonnell’s term expires in January 2014 — not even a year after the second phase of the project is expected to begin construction, which could take five years.
The effects of political turnover are already being felt.
In Loudoun County, the Board of Supervisors underwent a sweeping change after the November elections. Many supervisors on the nine-member board have questions about the project’s cost.
Loudoun’s portion of the construction bill is more than $200 million, plus another $11 million a year starting in 2018 to help subsidize operating costs.
Loudoun Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles District) said people should be concerned about the possibility of Phase 2 being derailed.
“There is a very legitimate and real chance that this project might not go forward,” he said.
The Republican-dominated board of supervisors views the pro-union project labor agreement as a “deal-breaker,” he said.
Loudoun’s supervisors asked for an extra 30 days to decide whether they will contribute. They now have until July 4.