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DC-area lawmakers to Congress: Stay out of our airport business

DC-area lawmakers to Congress: Stay out of our airport business
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Lawmakers who represent districts in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area have a message for the rest of Congress: stay away from our airports. 

Lawmakers who represent parts of D.C., Maryland and Virginia said in a letter released on Tuesday that Congress should not meddle with the number of flights at Ronald Reagan National Airport because it negatively affects nearby Dulles International Airport. 

The lawmakers said decisions about the Washington, D.C., airports are best handled by local officials. 

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“As the 2015 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill comes before the Congress, we would like to make clear our strong opposition to any attempts aimed at changing the current High Density (slot) and perimeter rules at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport,” the lawmakers wrote. 

“Changes to existing law should not be made unilaterally by Congress, but rather though the mutual agreement of all parties concerned,” they continue.

At issue is the number of takeoffs and landings, or “slots,” that are allowed at Reagan National Airport, which is one of two airports in the nation where access is strictly controlled by the FAA. 

Lawmakers have moved in recent years to weaken a so-called “perimeter rule” that placed limits on the number of miles flights could travel from Reagan airport to make it easier for passengers to get flights to West Coast destinations there.  The perimeter rule limits flights to distances that were less than 1,250 miles from Reagan Airport, which forced airlines to operate flights to places like California from Dulles. 

The D.C.-area lawmakers said the changes have resulted in a decline in traffic at Dulles, which they say is equally important to the metropolitan area. 

“In the last three FAA reauthorization bills, Congress has made changes to these rules that have disrupted the balance in this two-airport system,” the lawmakers wrote. “After three consecutive years of record growth, Reagan National is forecasted to overtake Dulles International in terms of passenger enplanements in 2015."  

Both Reagan and Dulles airports are operated by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which was established by Congress in 1986. 

Dulles Airport typically attracts about 10.5 million passengers per year, making it the 23rd busiest airport in North America according to statistics that are compiled by Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA). 

By comparison, Reagan normally attracts 9.8 million passengers per year, which makes it the 25th busiest airport on the continent, according to the airport group. 

The D.C.-area lawmakers attributed the changes at both airports to Congressional meddling. 

“Changes in 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. As a consequence, airline growth at Dulles International has declined as carriers have shifted flights from Dulles International to Reagan National,” they wrote.

The letter was signed by Sens. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate Democrats offer fresh support for embattled Tanden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump teases on 2024 run Sunday shows - Trump's reemergence, COVID-19 vaccines and variants dominate MORE (D-Va.) and Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: DC Guard chief testifies about hampered Capitol attack response | US contractor dies of heart attack after Iraq rocket attack | Pentagon watchdog finds 'inappropriate conduct' by ex-White House doctor Biden reignites war powers fight with Syria strike Bipartisan group of senators introduces bill to rein in Biden's war powers MORE (D-Va..), along with Reps. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump teases on 2024 run Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' Overnight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission MORE (D-Va.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).