“Our number one transportation priority is rail to Dulles,” Bulova said. “It was never rail to Loudoun County. We were happy to have Loudoun as a partner. The economic development opportunities are enormous. If they pull out, they are the losers.”
‘These guys are a disaster’
Originally, the process to get information out to potential bidders was scheduled to start in early March with bids being accepted by the end of the year and a winner being chosen by early 2013. But now the timetable is up in the air.
“This has been a frustrating process,” said Tom Davis, a member of MWAA’s board. “The only logical thing we can do is see what Virginia gives us and see what Loudoun does. We really don’t have much choice.”
LaHood has called a May 2 meeting of the stakeholders to try to reach an agreement to move the project forward. Many observers say the loss of Phase 2 would have a huge impact.
“So many corporations have moved, knowing that rail was part of the equation coming farther out,” said Patricia Nicoson, president of the Dulles Corridor Rail Association. “This project is too important to fail. We need cooler heads to prevail.”
“If it doesn’t go, it says something about the region,” she said. “It says we couldn’t get it together to do a long-term rail project. That’s unthinkable to me.”
The uncertainty is magnified by public perceptions of MWAA. Many observers say they have lost confidence in the authority. They have accused the board of mismanagement and lacking transparency; the first phase of the Silver Line is already estimated to be as much as $150 million over budget.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s inspector general is conducting an investigation of the authority’s management practices, transparency and governance. The report is expected to be released this spring. That makes it even more difficult to get support from Richmond and Loudoun.
“We are actively evaluating whether we can take the project over,” Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton has said. “These guys are a disaster.”
However, airports authority officials warn that switching the responsibility for construction to the state would be a legal mess. Connaughton said he believes that may still outweigh the alternative.
“We’re at the point, quite honestly, where we think we could potentially do it better, cheaper, faster,” he said.