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MWAA Board Member Calls LaHood 'Heavy-Handed'

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Work on the first phase of the Silver Line rail to Dulles Airport is ongoing, but officials are still fighting over funding for Phase 2. 
Armando Trull
Work on the first phase of the Silver Line rail to Dulles Airport is ongoing, but officials are still fighting over funding for Phase 2. 

An outgoing member of the agency running the Silver Line rail project is firing back at U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood after LaHood  criticized the group's spending and ethics. 

In a letter sent to LaHood’s office Tuesday, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) board member Robert Brown accused LaHood of "coercive" and "heavy-handed" oversight that has created a distraction from finding a better funding formula the rail link to Dulles Airport.

Brown, whose tenure on the MWAA board is expected to end this month, wrote that LaHood took "unprecedented" steps of "questionable lawfulness" to monitor the airports authority following reports of profligate spending and unethical practices. 

The Transportation Secretary sent a letter to MWAA in August, signed by the governors of Virginia and Maryland and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, expressing outrage at reports of no-bid contracts, poor transparency and lavish spending on travel. Although Brown acknowledges some missteps by MWAA, he's still focused on calling attention to the lack of federal funding allocated for Phase 2 of the Dulles Rail project.

"It's a little bizarre to me that the Secretary of Transportation really cares how much one individual spends on an airplane ticket when toll payers in Northern Virginia are looking at double digit tolls in a very few years," he says. 

Brown is referring to the current plan to increase fees on the Dulles Toll Road over the next four decades to finance half of the $6 billion dollar Dulles rail project cost. The tolls will be necessary because the federal government has provided no funding for Phase II  of the rail to Dulles Airport, Brown says. 

"I don't think that as a matter of public policy that is acceptable," says Brown, who also cited Virginia's "paltry" $150 million contribution as part of the problem. "There is no other transportation project of this scale anywhere in the country where the local community bears such an inordinate share of the total project cost."

The Department of Transportation received the letter but hasn't had time to review it, according to a DOT spokesman.

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