MWAA Agreement Needs Public Scrutiny

The State of Virginia and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority are close to signing an agreement that cedes state control over the Rail-to-Dulles project and toll revenues from the Dulles Toll Road to the authority — and Stewart Schwartz wants details.

Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, argues that the turn-over is so important that “the public should have a right to review and comment on the agreement before it is signed.” The MWAA, governed by appointed directors from Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., would become a key player in decisions affecting Virginia transportation and land use decisions.

Said Schwartz: “We have already expressed concern that MWAA might be less likely to support the tunnel for Tysons Corner because their overriding interest is building the connection to the airport as fast as possible. Yet, it is not the airport that will generate the greatest number of riders, but Tysons Corner. The tunnel is the key to both the redesign of this edge city and to achieving the ridership necessary to justify the project.”

Key questions: (1) Will the agreement give MWAA power to direct surplus toll revenues to transportation projects of its choosing? and (2) will the MWAA have control over the granting of air rights development above metro stations?

On the issue of air rights, Schwartz asks: Who will receive revenues from the sale of those air rights? Will local governments and citizens be able to participate in planning for those sites? Will a mechanism exist to consider density transfers to the air rights sectors in return for expanded public spaces?

Schwartz also renewed his call for a competitive bidding of Rail-to-Dulles construction as opposed to a contract negotiated with Dulles Transit Partners, which is associated with engineering-construction giant Bechtel.

(Click here to visit the Coalition’s website. The press release is not yet posted online, but should be shortly.)

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11 responses to “MWAA Agreement Needs Public Scrutiny”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Bacon’s Rebellion is at it again … stoking the fires
    of conflict and disputes …what a civic minded blog

  2. Charlie Fugate Avatar
    Charlie Fugate

    Very informative reading. Having used to live in Arlington, I know and can relate to the public safety problems and issues in Northern Virginia. Thanks for keeping such a well conceived and thoughtful blog.

    Charlie Fugate

  3. Anonymous Avatar


    Anon 3:37 works for a land owner between Reston and Broadlands.

    Anon Zoro

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I think Scwartz is right on target.

    The Wash Metro area cannot afford to have ANY entity pursuing plans that are not are not validated from a Regional Perspective.

    This issue, left unresolved, will surface again in spaces for other future congestionp pricing projects in the area.

    The region cannot afford to have independent entitites builiding and operating toll facilities for their own benefit – especially if in doing so – there is harm to the region.

    Nice article in WaPo this morning…about the Tysons project and traffic demand management – which apparently DOES work in Arlington and Montgomery county.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Today’s article in the WaPo sets forth exactly why I have been complaining in opposition to so many proposals. What might make sense in theory doesn’t work in Fairfax County. Fairfax County has government by campaign contribution. It lacks a mechanism to track commitments and the will to enforce them. Things will only get worse.

  6. E M Risse Avatar

    Did some one say that both Fundamental Change in governance AND Fundamental Change in settlement patterns before there can be Balanced Communities in sustainable New Urban Regions?


  7. Anonymous Avatar

    Ed – If “fundamental change in governance” means Fairfax voters need to dump Gerry Connolly (D-West Group) and his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors next November, count me in!

  8. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’m not sure if Governance is exactly it or perhaps I’m still woefully ignorant.

    TMT has pointed out that a LEGITIMATE traffic study was not accomplished and that even if it were that responses to the expected traffic would not be effective both with respect to intent and enforceability.

    You don’t need a change in Governance to enforce BOTH legitimate traffic studies and mandatory responses to mitigate.

    What you need is BETTER governance because we do know that there ARE places where the process IS done correctly – and these places have similiar forms of Governance.

    EMR … I wish you would be more specific in your advocacy about “different” governance.

    Either I don’t understand what you do advocate … or the advocacy itself is more of a general framework than something specific enough – for voters who DO want change- to advocate for.

    You could be the smartest guy in the world – but if folks don’t understand your ideas…. they’ll likely not be adopted.

  9. E M Risse Avatar


    Check out “The Shape of Richmond’s Future” which has a step by step draft senerio for creating Fundamental Change in governance structure.

    Fundamental change does not mean just unelecting one or another for reasons we have been exploring in the last few columns at Bacons Rebellion.

  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    EMR – thank you..

    I’m not sure but it appears to me that existing, MPOs are, in fact, entities similiar to what you advocate.

    The advocacy for Regional Approaches to Land Use … I’m still chewing on but let me ask – are you envisioning similiar scope/scale powers – for Regional Planning entities as localities currently have .. Comp Plans, et all?

    Is your advocacy fairly characterized as supporting REGIONAL Comprehensive Plans?

    Then finally.. the most radical aspect appears to me to be creating new political subdivisions with boundary lines determined by demographics rather than tradition… correct?

    Then a final question. Where, in our society, do you see the strongest proponents for your reform approach to planning? I guess I don’t see it coming from folks who think the Status Quo is fine and dandy.. right?

  11. If I am not mistaken, EMR proposes multiple levels of government, from the dooryard to the feds.

    Basically, I think this is a huge mistake, and will result in multiple overlaps, all of which we will pay taxes on.

    I don’t have a problem with this, but I proposes the following: all of the various levels of government should tax the next lower level. I/we should pay taxes only at the lowest level where we have the most leverage to fire the offenders.

    All of the higher levels should negotiate with my local guy, instaad of using the divide and conquer method to negotiate with me individually.

    Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?

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