The Commonwealth Transportation Board approved Wednesday the allocation of $150 million in state funds to the Rail-for-Dulles project in fulfillment of a financing agreement worked out with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Fairfax County and Loudoun County last year. Of that sum, $100 million will come from old balances from Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) projects that had never been allocated, and $50 million from the Department of Rail and Public Transit (DRPT).
There are no meaningful obstacles remaining to the transfer of the state funds to MWAA, which is in charge of administering the Rail-to-Dulles project as well as the Dulles Toll Road, which will pay for much of the construction. All that remains is for the McDonnell administration to finish work on a grant contract with MWAA, said Steve Pittard, DRPT’s chief financial officer.
Negotiators will have to write the language for setting up a trust account in which to deposit the $150 million and detail how the funds will be paid out to delay the increase in toll rates. A recent decision to eliminate any preferences for union Project Labor Agreements should eliminate the major political obstacle to the transfer of funds, Pittard said.
In an interview, Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton added that the ongoing disagreements between the McDonnell administration and MWAA over governance of the authority — MWAA has refused to seat two McDonnell appointees and accept other changes called for by federal law until the interstate compact is amended by both Virginia and Washington, D.C. — are immaterial to the grant.
“The Dulles Rail issues are very different from the MWAA governance issues,” Connaughton said. “This is our project,” he added, meaning that it is the commonwealth of Virginia’s project. The McDonnell administration wants it to succeed.
No one on the CTB objected to the transfer of the $150 million. If the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors approves the project re-financing, Phase 2 of the heavy rail project is a go.