McDonnell to MWAA: Cut More Costs from Dulles Rail

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.”


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15 responses to “McDonnell to MWAA: Cut More Costs from Dulles Rail

  1. Some relief is possible by refinancing this mess at a better rate. But much more relief is possible if our so-called ‘leaders’ also stop MWAA from approving the near-double priced bids that they have invited for Phase II. Unless and until that happens, this is just a bunch of high level crooks fighting over stolen money.

    Why did our leaders never ask the estimators to justify the unusually high cost estimates we were handed for this job? It was evident to anyone who took a look that something was very wrong with the prices.—Silver-Line-overcost-report—Bruhns.pdf

    This November, Fairfax County voters will decide the fate of some bonds ranging from $8 million to $25 million. Will voters be allowed to vote on the Tifia borrowing for this incredibly ill-conceived rail project? If not – why not?

  2. Not sure what kind of power McDonnell has beyond bully pulpit.

    Fairfax has far more ability to influence MWAA – if they really wanted to but to me it appears that Fairfax is more talk than action.

    So what is the MOST that McDonnell can actually do? it looks pretty toothless from here.

  3. “Not sure what kind of power McDonnell has beyond bully pulpit.”.

    So, let me see if I have this right …

    Former governor Tim Kaine, now running for US Senate, gave the MWAA authority over the Rail to Dulles project despite having five other bidders vying for the deal.

    Former governor Tim Kaine, now running for US Senate, made no provision for any level of effective governance by the state when he gave the bid to the MWAA.

    And LarryG thinks this is somehow Fairfax County’s fault.

    One thing I’ll say for Richmond apologists like LarryG – they never let the facts cloud their vision.

    By the way, where is George Allen in pillorying Tim Kaine for giving the RTD project to MWAA in the first place?

  4. What Kaine did with MWAA was not different than how most other similar groups get done.

    The point I’m making is that despite the fact that citizens and the Gov are outraged by MWAA’s performance and behavior there is hardly a peep from Fairfax and Fairfax’s input and influence would be potent.

    You can blame Kaine or you can blame the Clown show or you can blame the way that Interstate Compacts are done – in general such that they can, without involvement from the locality – run their own show… with little transparency and accountability.

    It’s ironic that many opponents were hoping that Loudoun would drop the hammer but as I said before, Fairfax elected seem to have made a deal with the devil to get their density – at any cost to citizens both toll-payers and those who will see the roads around Tysons degrade.

    The people in Fairfax seem apathetic with regard to their elected and the elected seem to know that.

    Hey, I’m NOT apologizing for Richmond – I’m pointing out that Richmond’s involvement can’t fix things when Fairfax itself is AWOL.

  5. I know the presidential election is distracting the news media, but is this story being hushed up? Somehow the news media isn’t saying a thing about this yet, and Governor McDonnell seems to have forgotten to post the October 9, 2012 letter on his website, although this morning I see the letter posted on the MWAA website.

  6. I attended one of Fairfax County’s transportation meetings this week. The presentation was made by Fairfax County DOT chief Tom Biesiadny. I have considerable respect for him and the rest of the department. His presentation was thoughtful and informative. He was peppered with may challenging questions. Also there was Sharon Bulova, John Foust and Barbara Favola.

    Fairfax County has a list of projects that are funded through the next four years. The list is impressive. Beyond that and except for Tysons and BRAC, the County really doesn’t have a list of projects that would be undertaken if funded. It struck me as “more of the same ‘trust-us'” we seen on a regular basis for years. Give us more money and trust us.

    The County, which is close to adopting a fair and reasonable plan to fund Tysons transportation infrastructure — a plan that requires much higher than historical contributions from developers — is hesitant to extend it to all future development in the County. Indeed, the burdens placed on the beneficiaries — the developers — should be extended statewide.

    Senator Favola was clueless. She basically ranted at RoVA for not wanting to raise taxes. They just don’t understand the Arlington Way. She also made it clear she didn’t want to tackle any big, strong vested interests or deal with the corruption in the state transportation funding process when it would be so much easier just to tax everyone more. A number of my good Democratic friends are ready to ask for a new senator.

  7. “Senator Favola was clueless.”.

    My state senator? Clueless? Favola exists because Janet “Big Bird” Howell was afraid to run against Caren Merrick and used redistricting to gerrymander herself a safe seat.

    This created a bizarre district that stretched from mid Arlington to Loudoun County.

    Favola is clueless. Some days she wants to build infrastructure, some days she doesn’t. Ask her about I66 when you have a moment and want to be stunned.

    However, she exists as a senator because the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond is a corrupt, opaque self-serving entity. The little rats gather in smoke filled back rooms in Richmond and conspire to ensure that Virginia remains the state with the least competitive state elections.

  8. Oh wait, somebody mentioned the letter – saying “…Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell wrote to compliment the airports authority…”

  9. TMT – do you have a link to the projects that Fairfax will build – and do you know where they got the funding to build them?

  10. Larry, here is the link to the Fairfax County list of funded projects.

  11. thanks TMT. That’s a pretty impressive list – 9 pages worth of transportation projects.

    Our list for the next 6 yrs is about one page.

    “bond” is projects paid for by Fairfax …right?

    RSTP and CMAQ are Fed also – through the MPO.

    I count 6 proffer projects. Do you know what C&I is?

  12. Bonds can be either General Obligation or revenue bonds. The County issues about $25 million in GO bonds each year for transportation. C&I is the current $0.11 cents per hundred tax on commerical & industrial property.

  13. I notice also there is a planned transportation referenda in 2014.

    Do you know how much that is for and how they plan to pay back the bonds?

    If memory serves me, Fairfax has had several transpo referenda.

  14. ” VDOT Comissioner Says “Yes we need revenue””

    the title of this blog post is ” McDonnell to MWAA: Cut More Costs from Dulles Rail”

    but then we also have a couple about the trends of sub urbanization and ex-urbanization and WHY people commute to the suburbs and exurbs and then somewhat open-ended speculation without a real foundation that people might be moving back to the urbanized areas.

    I think different. I think in our speculation, we completely overlook the forces that push people to the suburbs and exurbs and I do not think those things have changed much and so I do wonder what factors are in play that would be more potent and cause a reverse in the commutes.

    Down our way, more and more people are riding VRE, carpooling, riding buses and vans, etc.

    We are expanding VRE to a new station and we are expanding several commuter lots.

    I see more people moving to non SOLO cars but I do not see a reverse-migration because in part the things that brought them here are still bringing them here – and that is affordable single family detached homes compared to what is available in NoVa.

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