Airports authority bucks Congressman, delays overhaul

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Local,Virginia,Transportation,Liz Essley
The D.C. area airports authority board has announced it will deny votes to two new Virginia board members added by a recent federal law meant to overhaul the board.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority says it won't go along with legislation sponsored by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., until Virginia and D.C. amend the interstate compact governing the authority.

"It doesn't come as a surprise they're going to fight [the new law]. They're tone deaf. They're dysfunctional," said Dan Scandling, a spokesman for Wolf.

The authority came under fire earlier this year for not listening to local leaders and pursuing more expensive options for the $6 billion Dulles Rail project, which it is in charge of building. Wolf's law, in an attempt to shake up the board, added four new members, including the two recently appointed from Virginia, as well as removed members whose terms have expired.

But MWAA Board Chairman Charles Snelling sent a letter to Wolf last week saying that the authority would not allow Virginia's new board members to participate, based on a 22-page legal opinion by outside counsel that MWAA commissioned to examine Wolf's legislation.

But Snelling denied the board was fighting the law.

"I want to state on the record as explicitly as I know how: We are not opposing Congressman's Wolf's legislation. We accept the legislation and we are working diligently and transparently to clear up a number of important legal issues regarding the implementation of the law. We fully anticipate the legal issues being resolved, and we intend to welcome the new members with full enthusiasm," Snelling said in a statement to The Washington Examiner.

MWAA's legal analysis said the law would be unconstitutional if it forced the authority to overhaul its board without the legislative approval of Virginia and the District.

Wolf said MWAA's behavior would erode public confidence in the board.

"Contrary to what your board believes, the intent of Congress could not be more clear," he wrote in a letter to Snelling. "There was no need for MWAA to go to the expense of hiring outside counsel, which essentially provided the board an advocacy piece," he said, adding that he would ask the Department of Transportation Inspector General to investigate how much the legal advice cost and which board member requested it.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner