MWAA Votes to Drop Project Labor Agreement
Silver Line Phase 2 will roll on minus a big sticking point that favored pro-union firms.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board voted Wednesday to drop the project labor agreement for Phase 2 of the Silver Line Rail to Dulles.
The PLA agreement for Phase 2 gave preference to firms using union workers. It was a voluntary arrangement for Phase 1, which is now more than 70 percent complete. Phase 1 will run from Tysons Corner to Reston's Wiehle Avenue. It is slated to be operating by December 2013.
Phase 2, originally scheduled to open in 2016, has already been delayed amid financial and political haggling. Phase 2 is slated to run from Wiehle Avenue to Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County.
The mandatory PLA had been a sticking point the last several months as Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) threatened to withhold the commonwealth's $150 million contribution if the PLA agreement was not dropped. The Virginia General Assembly also recently enacted a law and included language in the state budget prohibiting project labor agreements for Phase 2.
The PLA, as well as a possible opt-out by Loudoun County, has put the second phase of the rail project in jeopardy. Loudoun supervisors have also said they won’t contribute their share of about $200 million for Phase 2 if the labor agreement goes forward. The all-Republican Loudoun Board of Supervisors has until July 4 to decide.
More than 100 people spoke to speak at a public hearing on Phase 2 in Loudoun on Monday. Last week, a conservative group used robocalls to encourage Loudoun citizens to support the supervisors in opting out of rail.
The advocacy group Loudoun Rail Now said in a statement Wednesday it is pleased that the MWAA Board has voted to remove the Project Labor Agreement from Phase 2 and is hopeful the project can now move forward.
"As clearly stated by the Loudoun Board of Supervisors and Gov. Bob McDonnell, removal of the PLA is the critical step in approving Rail to Loudoun," the group said. "With this vote, the Commonwealth will move forward with its $150 million contribution to Phase 2. Equally critical, Loudoun County’s Board has made the removal of the PLA an essential pathway towards opting into the Silver Line."
The Dulles Corridor Rail Association last month reiterated its support for dropping the PLA if that is what it will take to move the project forward.
DRCA Chairman Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston) said Tuesday that MWAA's move is a positive one.
"This removes a big obstacle for Phase 2," he said. "I always thought Virginia's position about the PLA was greatly overstated - it is highly unlikely that any large contractor would not use it. But now that it is gone, Virginia can get on board and move this thing forward."
Plum also said the vote should be encouraging to Loudoun County.
"This should take away a concern Loudoun expressed," Plum said. "Now we can knock off the points of contention and get this process under way."