Politics

D.C. Area Lawmakers to Colleagues: Leave Our Airport Alone

Warn against easing restrictions on long-haul flights into Reagan National Airport

Lawmakers from the D.C. area are concerned about sending more air traffic to Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Lawmakers from in and around Washington are warning their congressional colleagues against changing local airport rules in a bid to make it easier for them to get back to their home states.

A group of 15 members of Congress, led by Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia and Benjamin L. Cardin and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, along with Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., do not want to see any easing of restrictions on long-haul flights from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport — whose Arlington, Virginia, location is significantly closer to the Capitol building than either of the other major airports in the area.

“No member of Congress appreciates another representative meddling with the assets in their state or district,” the lawmakers wrote. “We, too, strongly oppose any attempts by other members to dictate operations at these airports for their own personal convenience at great cost to our communities and constituents.”

The letter was sent just before recess to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over the Federal Aviation Administration, which is up for reauthorization again this year.

Several recent FAA authorization measures have included language easing up on the restrictions on available “slots” for departures at Reagan National, with some leeway also being given on the perimeter restrictions that seek to cut down on the number of long-distance flights from the airport.

The restrictions at Reagan National help make Dulles International Airport, which straddles Loudoun and Fairfax counties further out in the Virginia countryside, more competitive. There have also been benefits to Baltimore-Washington International airport, which sits off the Baltimore-Washington Parkway north of the District of Columbia.

“Flight activity resulting from legislative loosening of the slot and perimeter rules, combined with airline mergers and commercial transactions, have led to significant congestion and stress on Reagan National’s facilities and a decline in commercial domestic passenger volume at Dulles International,” the lawmakers wrote. “Since 2000, domestic commercial passenger traffic at Reagan National has grown 50 percent while Dulles International has declined by 9 percent.”

While the lawmakers had concerns about the potential for increased noise from aircraft, they also pointed out that an FAA bill that moves more air traffic in the direction of Reagan could undermine the finances at Dulles.

“The impacts of additional modifications to existing law could financially destabilize Dulles International at a time when the airport is still recovering from previous slot and perimeter alterations and external economic factors,” they wrote.

Besides the senators, the House signatories to the letter included Republicans Barbara Comstock, Robert W. Goodlatte and Rob Wittman of Virginia and Democrats Donald S. Beyer Jr., Gerald E. Connolly and A. Donald McEachin of Virginia, Anthony G. Brown, John Delaney and Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, and Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia.

The current law authorizing the FAA, including its tax revenues, expires on Sept. 30, at the end of the current fiscal year.

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