The board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) said Wednesday it does not support recent legislation proposed by U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R) to give Virginia more representation on the panel.
The airports authority oversees the operations of Reagan National and Dulles International airports and is the lead oversight agency in building the 23-mile Metro line to Dulles and Loudoun County. The rail line is being built in two phases — with the first phase currently under construction and expected to open in late 2013.
The airports authority board currently has 13 seats. The board members are appointed by the District mayor, the governors of Maryland and Virginia and the federal government.
Wolf introduced legislation in Congress that proposed increasing the size of the airports authority board from 13 to 17 by giving Virginia the additional seats. The bill would allow the governors of Maryland and Virginia, the D.C. mayor and the president to remove appointees from their respective jurisdictions, even if the appointees were chosen by their predecessors.
Wolf had said Virginia should have more seats on the airports authority board because Reagan National and Dulles International airports are located there.
“Anything that happens there has the most impact on Virginia,” he said.
Wolf’s move came after the board spent months battling public criticism over a decision last spring to locate a Metro station at Dulles Airport underground It ultimately agreed to reverse the decision and build a less-costly aboveground station.
The board is still hashing out details of how to get the second phase of the rail line project financed and underway with local, state and federal officials. Plus, there is rising concern about the potential hike in rates along the Dulles Toll Road to help pay for the rail line.
On Wednesday, the board held its discussion on the Wolf legislation in executive session because it said it involved “legislative strategy.” The board then decided in public that it would authorize its chairman — Charles Snelling — to oppose Wolf’s efforts.
“The board’s opinion is that the legislation would have a very negative effect and be unfair,” Snelling said after the meeting. He said the board was created under a compact that gave local jurisdictions and the federal government enough representation.
Wolf’s proposed legislation, Snelling said, would allow “one constituency to pack” the board.
“The present system is balanced,” he said. “They’d have absolute majority. It would mean the governor of Virginia was running the airports.”
Dennis L. Martire, a member of MWAA’s board, called Wolf’s legislation “sour grapes.”
“He doesn’t like that it is a sovereign, independent board that is making decisions that are contrary to his beliefs and politics,” Martire said after the board meeting.
“He wants to stack the board with political appointees,” Martire said. “That’s not what the MWAA board was established to be.”
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