It'S not eveything the airlines would like to see happen, nor does it please those residents who would just as soon see National Airport silenced once and for all, but there is now an administration bill in Congress that would let this region take over National and Dulles airports. The proposal reflects the recommendations of a regional commission headed by former Virginia governor Linwood Holton and appointed by Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole; and it represents an important move toward a more balanced airport transportation policy that also will get the federal government out of the airport ownership business.
Some modifications may be in order to avoid locking the regional authority into traffic and noise arrangements at National that may need altering at some future time. Besides, genuine regional control should mean airport home rule: the delegation of stipulations, conditions, rules and regulations to a responsible local authority. While the temptation is to lock into the law those current policies that may please one faction or another -- whether it's a limit on the number of passengers at National or certain nighttime noise restrictions, Congress should resist. These are policies the regional authority should be able to adjust -- upward or downward -- during the 35-year leasing period that would precede actual ownership of the the two airports.
So far the issue has been addressed with sensitivity to the concerns of Congress, the airlines and the various jurisdictions of the region. And it is not overdramatic to suggest that this opportunity should be seized now: Mrs. Dole, the commission and the local participants have joined to offer the federal government and the region a proposal that took much negotiating. Reassembling the necesssary parties for another go at it in some other year is unlikely.