The vote last week may have put to bed the debate over Loudoun’s role in the future extension of Metro through Northern Virginia, but the long grind before trains roll into Ashburn stations is just beginning.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is prepared to begin the procurement process almost immediately, Pat Nowakowski, executive director of the Dulles Metrorail Project, said Thursday.
“We’re working hard to get the last details ironed out and moving forward,” he said, adding that the request for qualified bidders will be going out in the “next couple of weeks.”
The procurement process for the Silver Line’s Phase 2 extension from Reston to Ashburn actually has been ready to go for months, but MWAA decided to wait until the Loudoun board voted July 3 before starting, so as not to prejudice any part of the decision. The board voted 5-4 last Tuesday to continue as a funding partner in the project, which will take the rail beyond Dulles Airport to Rt. 772 in Ashburn.
“The bidders for this will be teams of design consultants and construction firms who will partner together to build Phase 2 of this project,” Nowakowski said of the design-build contract. “The advantage is you will be concurrently progressing the design as you do construction. You don’t waste as much time with this type of project.”
Having the design people and the construction people on the same team also helps, he said, “to make sure whatever is designed is constructible. It gets them working together from the get-go to make sure it can be built the way it is designed.”
Nowakowski expects it will take about nine months to select the final firm. “This is not just ‘Tell us how much.’ We ask for a whole lot more information to make sure they are fully prepared and able to build this thing in the way in which they say they will.”
Once the team is on board, Nowakowski said, the next step is getting all the insurance documents in place. Then the notice to proceed will be given.
“By the middle of next year we should have that,” he said. In the beginning the work will be mostly design, as the funding partners only have received the preliminary engineering and some little “on the ground” work. “The real construction will begin in 2014.”
MWAA says it will take about five years to complete Phase 2.
Nowakowski said he expects the search for teams will be worldwide with “very large constructors in this country” bidding on the project.
“They are the biggest of the big,” he said. “One of the things that we’ll go through early in the process is that we want to hire people who have run a billion-dollar rail project before.”
Even with those basic requirements, a competitive procurement process is expected, with Nowakowski expecting five or more firms to advance through the first stages of review. While Bechtel is building Phase 1 of the project from Tysons Corner to Wiehle Avenue, there is no guarantee it will bid, or be chosen, to construct Phase 2. Nowakowski said there are no issues if a different company is selected for the second phase of construction.
“The process makes sure the connection between the two phases is worked into the design,” he said.
Nowakowski also reconfirmed that a project labor agreement in any contract will be voluntary.
“It is solely up to them to tell us how they will put a labor team together to do this job,” he said. “There are no points or anything associated with having a PLA.”
Bids will be judged on a point scale and previously MWAA said it would not require a PLA but would give more points to bids that came in with one.
“We have removed that completely from the picture,” Nowakowski said. “They will make sure they have a good plan to put a workforce together. These are teams who are very familiar with these types of projects.”
The board’s action to remain as a funding partner in the Silver Line extension was contingent upon a PLA not being added back in as a requirement.
The Board of Supervisors’ vote last Tuesday did not end its work either. In addition to monitoring the overall project, the board must create the tax district it decided to use to finance the rail extension.
The tax district will have two different subsets—one within a half mile of each of the four stations that will impact Loudoun properties, Rt. 28, Dulles Airport, Rt. 606 and Rt. 772, an airport district, and another for the outer portion of the district. The inner core tax rate would be 20 cents per $100 of assessed value and the remainder of the districts would be tax rates up to 20 cents.
The tax district would roughly encompass a one-mile radius around the Rt. 28, Dulles Airport, Rt. 606 and Rt. 773 rail stations. However, the boundaries are drawn such that they exclude virtually all the existing residential development in the area. According to the county staff, that leaves only 37 parcels. However, new residential development immediately around the Metro stations, like the planned Moorefield Station, Loudoun Station and Dulles World, will be taxed.
The 37 parcels in the district now include 30 townhouses being developed along Loudoun County Parkway near the Dulles Greenway, behind the Aloft hotel. Those are under construction and have no one living in them. The other seven parcels are older single-family homes individually dispersed throughout the area. None of the HOAs in the Ashburn area are impacted by the tax district.
“We have to officially go through a public process and adopt an ordinance that takes care of the mechanics of the district,” County Chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large) said of the board’s next steps.
In writing the ordinance to create the district, the staff will have to go parcel by parcel to make sure the correct lots are included and they coincide with the county’s maps. The board has requested a public hearing be held before Nov. 1, and York said he would expect a special public hearing to be held some time after the board’s Oct. 16 business meeting.
Next on the list, according to York, is dealing with the parking garages at the Rt. 606 and Rt. 772 Metro stations. As part of a Memorandum of Agreement adopted by the previous board, Loudoun is responsible for building the three parking garages to serve those two stations using public or private money. If another funding source cannot be found, the price of the garages would be added back to the overall rail project.
York and senior members of county staff have said it is unlikely the county will pay for the construction of the garages, given the other pressures on Loudoun’s capital budget for building new schools and county facilities. York said last week he is not concerned about the possibility of the garages being built.
“I am fully anticipating in the not too distant future that we are going to be seeing proposals to build the garages,” he said. While he would not elaborate on specifics of how those proposals would come forward, he said he expects to see them as a “mix with other development proposals.”
Of course, as with any vote of the Board of Supervisors, there is always the possibility of reconsideration. Although the deadline to act on its role in the Silver Line extension passed July 4, reconsideration is permitted under the board’s rules of operation. Reconsideration is typically only restricted if a contract is executed following the vote with monetary expenditures. By the time the board’s next business meeting comes July 17, there will have been no action, expect the preparation for procurement—and no money would have been spent.
However, sources say they have heard no rumblings of a possible reconsideration, which would have to be brought by one of the five supervisors who voted in favor of the project. As for Nowakowski and MWAA, reconsideration isn’t even on their minds.
“We’re ready to go. We’re moving forward,” he said.