Supporters of the administration's plan to control noise and future growth of National Airport told Congress yesterday they have the backing of the Washington area's major political figures.
One hundred and one local political and community leaders have signed a letter circulated by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) urging Congress to reject any amendments to the transportation appropriations bill that would restrict the long-delayed airport policy, Wolf said yesterday. The bill will be second on the agenda when the House reconvenes today.
Congress traditionally has opposed measures it felt would reduce service at National, which legislators frequently use. Although it holds no formal review powers, Congress can impose its views by barring use of transportation funds for the plan.
In July, Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis unveiled a package intended to close 10 years of debate over congestion and noise at National. The plan is scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 26 if it makes it past Congress.
Among those who signed the letter were the governors and U.S. senators of Maryland and Virginia, the area's four members of Congress, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, suburban county officials, businessmen and the heads of community associations. The purpose, Wolf said yesterday, was to demonstrate wide community support for the plan.
"I think we stand a reasonable chance," he said. "But I think we have a fight on our hands."
The plan would cap passenger use at 16 million per year, maintain the number of landings and takeoffs at their current 60 per hour (though airlines could add extra flights if passenger loads demanded), and impose noise restrictions. Noise rules would be tightened in 1986, forcing use of the quieter jets now under development.
In addition, the plan would promote use of Dulles International Airport by speeding construction of highways to it and examining free or subsidized ground transport from downtown.
In recent months, the plan's supporters have been calling on legislative offices to build support. Sen. John Warner of Virginia obtained the signatures of 29 U.S. senators for a letter of general support to Secretary Lewis. Wolf has gathered 137 signatures in the House for a similar letter.
Many community groups have criticized the plan strongly because they say it would not actually reduce air traffic at National, rated 10th busiest in the nation before the air controllers' strike began. Nonetheless, groups like the Coalition on Airport Problems back it as a step in the right direction.
Members of Congress, meanwhile, charge the plan would reduce service at National. Several amendments to postpone it or forbid any measure that reduced service already have surfaced on the Hill. Last year, opponents there succeeded in blocking a similar airport plan.