Dulles Transit Partners, the contractor building Metro’s Silver Line Phase 1, is working to complete the rail extension by early April or face substantial fines.
Reston 2020 co-chair Terry Maynard has an idea of what to do with those fines — put them toward alleviating the burden on Dulles Toll Road users, who face mounting costs that will help pay for Silver Line Phase 2.
“I believe that every last cent of those fines should go to stabilizing DTR tolls,” Maynard recently wrote in a letter to Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th). “Although the projected sums of the fines are not large compared with the multi-billion dollar price tag of Phase 1 of the line’s construction, we are at the point where every dollar counts.”
DTR told the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Feb. 7 that it had “reached substantial completion” on the rail extension, which will run from East Falls Church to Reston’s Wiehle Avenue. However, after a two-week review period, MWAA found issues with 7 of 12 areas, ranging from leaks to problems with the automatic train control system.
The contractor is currently fixing the issues. Then there will be another review period. If the work passes, the project will be turned over to Metro, which has 90 days to complete its own testing before opening the long-awaited Silver Line.
However, The Washington Post reported that DTP’s contract states the contractor must finish the work within seven months of the agreed upon completion date of Sept. 9, 2013 — or face fines in the millions.If the work is not finished within that time, starting roughly April 10, DTP would face a $25,000-a-day penalty until the work is done. If the project is not completed 92 days after that April date, the contractor would have to pay roughly $2.3 million in fines, plus an additional $75,000 a day.
Ultimately, if the project is delayed more than six months from that April date, DTP could be required to pay more than $9 million total. Under the terms of the contract, the payments are capped at $60 million.
Meanwhile, tolls on the toll road may rise substantially to help build Silver Line’s Phase 2, which will run from from Wiehle Avenue to Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County. The $2.7 billion Phase 2 is being built without federal funding, though it is now expected to get federal TIFIA loans, which are expected to keep tolls at a more reasonable level.
Early last year, MWAA said that toll rates may be as high as $6.75 by 2018 in order to keep pace with Silver Line costs. Independent estimates say the tolls could rise even higher.
“My greatest fear is that fines paid to MWAA will not be used in a manner that advances the Silver Line, much less eases the financial burden on DTR users,” Maynard said in his letter to Connolly. “I also do not think that the ‘funding partners’ allocation of these funds is an equitable or fair way to handle any forthcoming fine revenue.
“As you know well, DTR users are now stuck with about half of the cost of Phase 1 of the Silver Line under the “funding partners” agreement — and most of them won’t be able to use the Silver Line to get to their destinations. Assuring that any fine revenue is directed at easing their growing toll burden would be one small step toward correcting this inequitable arrangement.”
The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Congressman Connolly,
As a Restonian and fellow advocate of the Silver Line, I would like to ask you—as a leader in advancing the Silver Line’s completion—to pursue further financial assistance in alleviating the terrible toll increase burden Dulles Toll Road users are paying for its construction. It appears that an opening is available: If, as reported by the Washington Post, Dulles Transit Partners (DTP) faces substantial fines for further delays in completing the line, I believe that every last cent of those fines should go to stabilizing DTR tolls. Although the projected sums of the fines are not large compared with the multi-billion dollar price tag of Phase 1 of the line’s construction, we are at the point where every dollar counts.
My greatest fear is that fines paid to MWAA will not be used in a manner that advances the Silver Line, much less eases the financial burden on DTR users. I also do not think that the “funding partners” allocation of these funds is an equitable or fair way to handle any forthcoming fine revenue. As you know well, DTR users are now stuck with about half of the cost of Phase 1 of the Silver Line under the “funding partners” agreement—and most of them won’t be able to use the Silver Line to get to their destinations. Assuring that any fine revenue is directed at easing their growing toll burden would be one small step toward correcting this inequitable arrangement.
I hope that you can make sure that the $30 million or so in fines that the Post suggests may be forthcoming will be directly applied to the share of the construction cost borne by DTR users.
In the meantime, thank you for all that you have done to advance the Silver Line’s construction. I certainly hope that its completion is near at hand and we can begin riding the rails soon.
Board of Directors, Reston Citizen Association
Co-Chair, RCA Reston 2020 Committee
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