Fairfax County backs Dulles Rail despite concerns

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Virginia,Transportation,Aubrey Whelan

Fairfax County formally agreed Tuesday to help fund the second phase of the Dulles Rail Project despite serious concerns supervisors still have about state funding, labor agreements and neighboring Loudoun County's increasingly shaky commitment to the $2.7 billion project.

"A long time ago we started discussion about rail in the Dulles corridor and -- as the Grateful Dead said -- what a long, strange trip it's been," said Supervisor Michael Frey, R-Sully. "I can come up with far more reasons why we shouldn't than why we should. We still don't know how we're going to pay for it. We continue to have discussions with the state and whether they're in it or not. We continue to fight with [the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority] board. We don't know if Loudoun's going to be in it or not."

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors' overriding concern is funding.

Virginia pledged $150 million toward the project but is now threatening to withhold that funding if the airports authority continues to encourage project contractors to use union labor.

Democrats in Virginia's General Assembly pushed to include up to $300 million more in state aid for the project, but that funding was killed last week and may not be revived.

Fairfax, which is expected to pay $512 million toward the second phase, is also concerned that Loudoun will drop out of the project entirely. The all-Republican Loudoun County Board of Supervisors already asked for a 30-day extension to reconsider its participation and expressed reservations about the airports authority's decision to favor contractors who use union labor.

Fairfax Supervisor John Cook, R-Braddock, proposed that Fairfax also drop out of the project if the airports authority continues to insist on the use of union labor in the right-to-work state, but his motion was defeated by the predominantly Democratic board.

"If that [union provision] doesn't come out, the state's not going to pay $150 million and Loudoun County's not going to stay in," he said. "We're the big gorilla in the room. We're going to insist that this project be managed correctly." Still, supervisors agreed they needed to support the project despite their reservations.

"In 20, 30, 40 years, if we don't have a rail line, people will look at this and say, 'Why isn't there a rail line out here?' " said Supervisor Jeff McKay, D-Lee. "This is the nation's capital ... and the fact that we haven't done it to date is a little embarrassing. It's far past time that our premier international airport be served by a rail line."

awhelan@washingtonexaminer.com

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