Virginia Gov. Mills E. Godwin upbraided the U.S. Labor Department today for requiring sharply higher wages on portions of the Interstate Rte. 66 project reserved for Metrorail use.
In a letter to Secretary of Labor F. Ray Marshall, Godwin said two orders by the department's wage division would force I-66 contractors to pay laborers $9.07 an hour instead of $4.50 and grading equipment operators $11.45 an hour instead of $6.50 if they perform work on the Metrorail right of way within the I-66 corridor. The higher rates are in effect for Metrorail construction in the Washington area.
State highway officials estimate only 4 per cent of the I-66 right of way is reserved for Metrorail, but they have said it will be difficult to separate the work done for the road, from that done for the transit line in its median strip.
In his letter to Marshall, Godwin said the first Labor Department order requiring Metrorail wage scales on the I-66 project would have increased its estimated $80 million labor cost by 82 per cent. The second order limiting the higher Metrorail wages to right of way, Godwin said, creates separate wage rates that "would be virtually impossible to administer."
The highway project is a 9.6-mile segment of I-66 from the Capital Beltway in Fairfax County to Theodore Roosevelt Bridge between Washington and Arlington.
Godwin used unusually strong language in his three-page letter calling on Marshall to rescind the wage order. He said "there is no rational basis" for the decisions and called them a "patent absurdity."
He said if the wage decision illustrates the Carter administration's plan to combat unemployment and inflation, then "our people might just as well unfurl the white flag of surrender and prepare to suffer the disastrous consequences certain to follow."
He also said paying sharply higher wages for Metrorail work identical to work performed on high-way project is "indicative of the actions that have caused the cost of Metrorail to become so excessive that no one now knows what it untimately will be."
Robert Brock, director of the Labor Department's division of wage determination, was not available for comment.