In a letter sent yesterday to Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Chairman Michael A. Curto, Governor Bob McDonnell pressed for further actions to drive down costs of the Rail-to-Dulles project, with the ultimate goal of keeping tolls low for Virginia taxpayers and Dulles Toll Road commuters.
McDonnell said that MWAA should reevaluate the bond financing of current projects “to see if better deals can be reached to drive down debt service costs,” and that the authority should “continue to evaluate the scope and expense of Phase II.”
The letter offered no specific suggestions on how the scope and expense of Phase II, currently estimated to cost $2.8 billion, might be modified. However, Virginia Highway Commissioner Gregory A. Whirley has floated a proposal to restructure the project’s debt service by tapping excess reserve funds set aside for the bond financing as a way to offset some of the projected toll increases projected for the Dulles Toll Road. Toll road revenues will cover roughly half the cost of the total cost of the rail project. (For details on Whirley’s proposal, see, “Hey, It’s Worth a Look.”)
While acknowledging progress in addressing abuses raised in an interim federal Inspector General’s report, McDonnell urged the MWAA board to continue to address issues such as non-competitive contracts with former board members, strengthening the board’s code of ethics, implementing greater transparency and improving construction planning and oversight.
With the recent amendment of the Virginia-Washington, D.C., bi-state compact governing the MWAA, which expands Virginia’s board representation and forces off the board directors whose terms have expired, McDonnell finally has an opportunity to put his stamp on the board. “It is my hope,” he wrote, “that we are at a turning point in the history of MWAA.”