Tony Howard, president and chief executive of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, is one of the road’s most vocal champions. “It will benefit the airport and also the many businesses around the airport. It will steer commercial growth in areas around Dulles.”
Population growth has slowed in Prince William and Loudoun, but people are still moving to those communities, and supporters of the project say that it is better to build the parkway before local roads are overwhelmed.
Leo J. Schefer, president of the Washington Airports Task Force, a nonprofit group of business and community leaders that advocates for the airports, likens the need for the Bi-County Parkway to the early days of the Dulles Toll Road, when there was no roadway connecting it to Interstate 66. Building that three-mile connector made it easier for people to get to the airport and may have ultimately helped increase passenger traffic, he said. He envisions a similar scenario for the parkway.
“As companies come to this region, they come by and large because of federal government,” Schefer said. “But where they locate is a product of access to an international gateway. That access would be greatly enhanced if Prince William County can get a [faster] connection to Dulles.”
Del. Timothy D. Hugo, a Republican who represents parts of Prince William and Fairfax County, said that even if the road could help Dulles, it could hardly be considered essential in a region wrestling with so many transportation challenges.
“I think it’s a misallocation of resources,” said Hugo, who has taken a leading role in opposing the parkway.
In May, Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) chided proponents of the project, saying they should not try to bolster their case by claiming that the road would increase cargo at Dulles.
MWAA officials have tried to stay above the fray, but the discussions come at a time when airport officials are trying to position Dulles as an international gateway for passengers and cargo — one that could compete with New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Despite the phenomenal growth at National, MWAA officials know that their future — and the bulk of their future revenue — will come from Dulles, which faces a host of challenges.
Dulles has no all-cargo airline, despite having tried for years to lure one. Instead, most of the cargo shipped into and out of Dulles — electronics, computer components and pharmaceuticals are the most common — travels in the belly of passenger jets.
“If Dulles wanted to compete with areas like [Memphis and Louisville], they’re going to have a [tough] time,” said Steve Alterman, president of the Cargo Airline Association. “If they want to get more freight, they’ll have to create it, not steal from somewhere else.”
Alterman said a road like the Bi-County Parkway could help.
“If building such a road leads to other business development around the road, that could make a difference,” he said. “The development of Dulles as a cargo airport really depends on the ability to attract businesses that ship things.”
Alterman said the MWAA could also raise its cargo capacity by capitalizing on its growing share of the international passenger market. In March, Etihad Airways began daily service from Dulles to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and last month, Brussels Airlines began direct service.
Brandon Fried, executive director of the Airforwarders Association, said that with 3,000 acres, Dulles has potential but also has a long way to go.
“Is Dulles going to become a player?” he said. “Maybe in the long term things will change, but while Dulles has a lot of destinations, it’s no JFK.”