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Pro-Labor Agreement Dropped From Dulles Rail Plan

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Supporters of the Silver line outside the Loudoun County Board meeting June 4. 
Martin Di Caro
Supporters of the Silver line outside the Loudoun County Board meeting June 4. 

The next phase of the Dulles Rail project will not give preference to construction contractors who promise to hire union workers. 

Although the Metropolitan Airports Authority Board previously included a project labor agreement (PLA) as part of the construction plan, board members voted this morning to remove the PLA from the project in order to ensure continued state funding for the rail line. Only one board member, Robert Brown, voted to keep the agreement. He says he doesn't trust Virginia to keeps its $150 million in the project anyway.

"I don't find that believable," said Brown. "I would find believable a grant agreement signed by the Commonwealth and the Airports Authority to provide these funds. My concern is getting the funding, and I don't think we have any assurance of getting that."

State funding is instrumental to determining whether Phase 2 of the Dulles rail project will be delayed as long as 18 months. Today's vote came amid threats of the Commonwealth of Virginia and Loudoun County pulling hundreds of millions of dollars in funding out of the project. Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton says his state is in, but the death of the PLA does not guarantee Loudoun County's participation.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and Republicans in the General Assembly say the project labor agreement (PLA) violates the state's right-to-work law by giving a preference to contractors who would choose union labor. Most Virginia construction workers are non-union.

MWAA officials have publicly defended the PLA, saying that if Virginia withdraws its money, tolls on the Dulles Toll Road could double, and the project could be delayed.

Key for the project's future will be Wednesday night's Loudoun County Board meeting. Board members heard from residents both for and against continuing funding for the project Monday night, and the board is expected to discuss the $270 million that represent's Loudoun's share for Phase 2. Loudoun has until July 4 to make a decision.

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