VirginiaMarylandDistrict of Columbia Joint Commission on Interstate Transportation
October 2, 2001, Washington, D.C.
In opening remarks by the commission's co-chairs, members were reminded of the importance of continuing the dialog between their respective jurisdictions as they search for solutions to regional transportation issues.
Staff briefed the commission members on legislation enacted in the 2001 Session creating the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. As approved in 2001, this legislation is incomplete in many respects. However, its effective date was postponed by one year to allow time for a joint subcommittee composed of legislators and local government officials to study the legislation and make recommendations for its amendment to the 2002 Session of the Virginia General Assembly.
In the course of these efforts a consensus emerged that the 2001 legislation is not workable in its present form and should be repealed. Consequently, an alternative piece of legislation, sponsored by Senator Mims in 2001, will be utilized as a base document that can be reworked to bring the legislation more in line with the commission's purpose.
The commission then heard from a Virginia transportation agency representative, who briefly discussed the Capitol Beltway Corridor Rail Feasibility Study. Initiated to explore the most feasible means of providing rapid transit between Springfield and Tysons Corner and other parts of Maryland, the feasibility portion of the study has been completed, and the project will enter into the environmental study stage once funding is available. In addition, two other major rail transportation studies are underway at this time.
A senior Maryland transportation official brought members up to date on the status of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project, which is well underway and moving forward as scheduled. Work contracts have been issued for piers and dredging, and construction of the foundation and pilings is 10 to 15 percent complete. The actual bridge construction contract, estimated at $2.4 billion, is scheduled to go out to bid in mid-October 2001. By 20042005, the outer loop of the bridge will be completed and open to traffic, with the remainder of the bridge opening in stages until final completion, sometime in 2006.
Another positive note was that the Federal Highway Safety Administration has informed both the Maryland and Virginia Departments of Transportation that their ownership agreement and financing plan have been approved, which will allow construction contracts to proceed.
The one unresolved issue is the Project Labor Agreement. The federal government has not given approval to apply a PLA to the bridge project, and this issue remains controversial. There is a concern among the Virginia delegation that such an agreement would add to the costs of the project. However, the Maryland official pointed out that such agreements protect against the possibility of a strike, a protection not offered by ordinary labor agreements. There are many opinions on this issue, which remains in the negotiation stage.
In response to a question on Capitol Beltway Projects in general, and the level of coordination between the two states, it was explained that Virginia and Maryland cooperate closely in the initial planning and environmental study stages, but less so in the construction phase due to funding constraints. It is understood that these projects are immensely expensive and each legislature has specific funding priorities. Regardless of the various funding/construction stages, however, the goal of each transportation department is to present a seamless integration to the traveling public.
The next topic of discussion was the tragic events of September 11, particularly in regard to the concentration of federal installations in the Northern Virginia, Maryland, and District of Columbia area. A strong case was made that the commission should collectively push for additional federal money for transportation projects in the region. The discussion centered on the 80 percent federal/20 percent state funding formula currently used to fund transportation projects nationwide, and whether that formula was adequate, given the federal government's dependency on the area's infrastructure and transportation facilities. A suggestion was made that the commission request a meeting with the Congressional leadership in an effort to solidify support behind the position of additional federal funding and also to present a unified voice when requesting changes to the ISTEA Reauthorization Act.
Additional business focused on the possibility of VDOT and MDOT conducting an origin and destination study on the American Legion Bridge. The costs associated with such a study will be presented at the next meeting. Also discussed was the issue of replacing or modifying the direction sign at Tyson's Corner to direct traffic to other Maryland and out-of -state destinations.