A VDOT plan to add a 4-percent administrative cost onto all Virginia road projects has made supervisors in two counties livid and sent Fairfax attorneys scurrying to their lawbooks to check out the legalities.
"What it means is that every road project will cost 4 percent more — the Wilson Bridge, the Mixing Bowl, the Parkway," said Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully). And if that's the case, he said, "It means less projects will be done" because they'll be too expensive.
It also seriously affects the Route 28 interchange project — already underway with the construction of the Barnsfield Road interchange connecting Route 28 to and from the National Air and Space Museum Annex opening in Chantilly in December.
Total project cost is nearly $200 million, with $168 million of that amount for the construction of six interchanges. The Route 28 Tax District is footing 75 percent of the cost, and VDOT, 25 percent. So a 4-percent hike jacks up the price tag $7 million.
The six interchanges are Barnsfield, Westfields Boulevard, McLearen Road, Routes 625 and 606 and the CIT exit, along a dozen miles or so between I-66 in Centreville and Route 7 in Loudoun County.
Because the state didn't have the money to build them on its own, VDOT entered into a public/private partnership with Shirley Contracting Corp and The Clark Construction Group to do the work. But since the ink's been dry on that contract for a long time, VDOT's tacking on an extra charge now has those involved with the project crying foul.
"It just seems incredibly unfair to charge it to existing projects," said Frey. "Do it on new projects, not on ones already approved." Besides, he added, "Route 28 is a fixed-price project with a private contractor. Shirley/Clark is doing all the administrative things [for it] that VDOT is supposedly charging for, so VDOT's adding $7 million to the project for nothing."
In actuality, he said, VDOT's charging the landowners — the Route 28 Tax District — because "that's where the money is coming from to pay back the bonds the county's issuing [in connection with the project]."
Tom Farley, VDOT's Northern Virginia District Administrator, told Loudoun County Supervisor Chuck Harris about the extra cost, two weeks ago. Since then, said Frey, the tax district and both county boards of supervisors voted to "object strenuously" to it.
He said VDOT used to have a central administrative fund for all its projects, so many such costs weren't directly allocated to specific projects. Now, said Frey, "We believe VDOT's taken $65 million from this general administrative budget and put it into Virginia's General Fund to help the governor balance the budget."
"We were thinking we had a $3 million cushion [on the Route 28 project], based on future tax-district income projections," he said. "Now all of a sudden, on paper, we're under a $4 million shortfall."