Dulles Rail official slams contractors for delays

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Local,Virginia,Transportation,Liz Essley
The airports authority in charge of building the Dulles Rail line is starting to grow impatient with contractors who have reported a 194-day delay in building the $2.8 billion first phase of the project.

"This [delay] is a bone of contention, I have to confess. I think we should have resolved this already," Dulles committee chairwoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Mame Reiley, told reporters Wednesday. "I think they're dragging their feet. I think they're dragging their feet intentionally."

Reiley said she thought Dulles Transit Partners, the contracting group building the rail line and led by Bechtel and URS, may be trying to avoid addressing schedule issues until after bidding on the contract for the second phase of the rail line.

But Reiley will fight that, she said.

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  • "I feel strongly that if it's not resolved, they shouldn't have the opportunity to bid on phase two," she said.

    Reiley's comments are the first public acknowledgement of tension between MWAA and its contractors.

    Pat Nowakowski, MWAA's manager for the project, denied that contractors were dragging out the project purposefully, saying both sides were working cooperatively. Contractors also denied there were problems.

    A Short history of Dulles Metro rail
    1962 D.C. transit study proposes monorail in Dulles corridor.
    1984 Virginia opens the Dulles Toll Road.
    1992 Virginia transportation officials adopt plan to build rail to Dulles by 2005.
    1998 Department of Transportation creates the Dulles Corridor Task Force.
    1999 Developers propose taking the rail line through Tysons Corner.
    2000 Environmental review starts.
    2002 Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and Fairfax and Loudoun counties agree to split 25 percent of the costs.
    2006-2008 Officials debate whether to put the Tysons stations above or below ground. They decide above.
    2007 Federal authorities say the project's cost have grown too high to qualify for federal funding.
    2008 Advocates for the project speak out, and federal authorities reverse position on funding.
    2009 The federal government agrees to contribute $900 million to Phase 1; construction begins.
    2011 Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called in to break a stalemate over financing Phase 2; negotiations ongoing.

    "There are a myriad of challenges, both large and small, that can affect the schedule on a project of this size and complexity," DTP spokeswoman Leslie Pereira said in an email. "To the best of our knowledge, all outstanding issues have been addressed. We remain confident we will be able to meet the project completion date."

    Progress reports for July and August showed that MWAA made suggestions to contractors about how to speed things up, but contractors had not yet agreed to make those changes. Contractors also asked for 32 days of weather delays in August -- more days than are in the month.

    MWAA also noted Wednesday that the rail line may go over its $2.8 billion budget for phase one if the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Agency does not agree to pay for some of the changes it has requested. Though they didn't say how much Metro's requests will cost, board members noted at their last meeting that they are being stuck with the tab for around $60 million to $70 million of changes outside of their control.

    Among those are safety upgrades suggested by the National Transportation Safety Board and expansion of the West Falls Church rail yard, both requested by WMATA.

    But Metro has made no promises to pay for any extra construction costs of the Silver Line.

    Examiner Archives
  • Dulles rail delays cost up to $150 million (10/19/11)
  • "Under our agreement, MWAA is responsible for building the extension to the standards of the rest of the Metrorail system. The residents of Fairfax County and Loudoun County deserve no less. That said, Metro has and will continue to work with MWAA to manage project costs," Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said.

    If the Silver Line does go over budget, either because of delays or Metro's requests, Fairfax and Loudoun County taxpayers, as well as Dulles Toll Road users, may be forced to pay for some of the overruns.

    lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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