IF THE LATEST good thinking of the Holton Commission on Dulles and National airports can continue through a scheduled vote on Tuesday, Greater Washington may capitalize after all on an important initiative afforded by Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole. On the table and up for possible regional grabs are the two airports now under federal control.
But as R. Scott Fosler outlines in today's "Close to Home" column, the various local jurisdictions have been divided over how any regional authority should be established. There is a compromise that has been tentatively endorsed by the commission, and it deserves formal approval at Tuesday's meeting.
The compromise, proposed by Sen. John Warner of Virginia, is aimed at striking a delicate balance among the interests of Virginia in two airports within that state; Maryland, which has Baltimore- Washington International to look out for; and the District, which considers Dulles a gateway to the capital that should not be separated from any authority over National. Under Sen. Warner's proposal, an 11-member regional authority would control Dulles and National. Five representatives would be appointed by Virginia's governor, three by the District's mayor, two by Maryland's governor and one by the president.
Maryland representatives, Mr. Fosler among them, would prefer equal representation of the two states and the District in an authority over National, with Dulles being turned over to Virginia. Given the necessity of approval by the Virginia General Assembly (as well as by Congress), there is little likelihood of any equal-representation plan succeeding for two airports that are in Virginia. The Warner plan still would protect the other jurisdictions against dominance by Virginia, while keeping regional authority over both airports intact.
What is critical now is a decision -- so that the opportunity will not be forfeited. Representatives of all three local jurisdictions have enough mutual concerns to rise above any sectional worries and should not muff this rare chance to improve the region's transportation system.