WASHINGTON — Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., announced this week that he has introduced legislation that would give control of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to Virginia.
Appointees of Virginia’s governor would make up six of nine seats on the MWAA’s board, with the federal government, Maryland, and the District of Columbia each having just one member.
Under the board’s current 13-member structure, Virginia has five members, the district three, Maryland two, and the federal government three.
The MWAA operates Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport, both of which are physically located in Virginia, under agreement with the federal government since 1987. It collects revenues from aircraft landing fees, rents and airport concession fees as well as a $4.50 passenger facility charge for each passenger. The authority uses some of those funds to back bonds for government-approved projects.
The MWAA also has jurisdiction over the Dulles Toll road, from which it also collects revenues for bond financing of the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Metrorail extension to DIA. MWAA control over the toll road has been controversial, and Wolf said it factored into his decision to introduce the bill.
“Both airports, the Dulles Toll Road and the Silver Line extension are all in Virginia,” Wolf said. “Would anyone think that Virginia should have majority control over the operations of Baltimore Washington International Airport or the development of the H Street Corridor in the district? This clearly makes no sense.”
“This legislation would simply give Virginia a majority of seats on the board that controls airports in the Commonwealth,” he continued. “This legislation does not remove representation from Maryland and D.C.; rather, it just affirms that the commonwealth has the most interest in the airports and rail project and therefore should have a majority of seats on the board.”
Wolf also said he is troubled by a series of scandals plaguing the authority, including a May report from the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation, which cited a lack of transparency at the MWAA. Also there was a high-profile disagreement between the authority and the office of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell over whether the MWAA would continue to use a union-friendly labor provision for construction of the Silver Line. These and other incidents created significant negative public attention for the authority.
“It seems like not a day goes by anymore without a media account casting MWAA in a negative light,” Wolf said.
MWAA spokesman Kimberly Gibbs said all stakeholders have an important voice in the board’s oversight authority.
“An important element of governance is the balance of representation on the authority board. We encourage the stakeholders to work cooperatively when considering changes to the authority business model,” she said.
Wolf’s legislation is pending before the House Committees on Transportation and Infrastructure and Oversight and Government Reform. The House is scheduled to return to session Sept. 10.