D.C. set to OK changes to troubled Dulles board

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Photo - Washington Dulles International Airport (Examiner file photo)
Washington Dulles International Airport (Examiner file photo)
Local,DC,Transportation,Liz Essley

The D.C. Council could approve an expansion of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board as soon as next week -- completing a change nearly a year in the making for the troubled authority in charge of the $6 billion Dulles Rail project.

The council will vote Oct. 2 on legislation from Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., that expands the board from 13 members to 17. D.C. and Maryland would each get one new seat. Virginia would get two.

Wolf's legislation was approved by Congress last year but requires approval from D.C. and Virginia because the airports authority was formed under an interstate compact. The changes being forced on the authority are a response to complaints from Virginia officials about the authority being unresponsive their concerns about Dulles Rail costs.

Virginia and the authority clashed over the authority's plans to build a more expensive underground Metro station at Washington Dulles International Airport and over the authority's support for the use of union labor in the right-to-work state. State and federal officials also have been critical of the authority's lax contracting and ethics rules.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is backing the changes even though they give Virginia more power on the regional board.

"The reality is if we didn't do it, Congress would have screwed up," an official in Gray's office said. "It was better to take a compromise where we get a seat, otherwise we wouldn't have gotten anything."

Wolf's original proposal gave Virginia all four new seats. D.C. officials said they were glad the version before them gave more seats to the region, not just Virginia.

"Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority Amendment Act of 2012 maintains present regional balance of authority -- I think that is important," Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham tweeted Wednesday.

The council next week could also approve Gray's nominee for the new seat, D.C. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Barbara Lang. Lang sailed through a confirmation hearing Wednesday.

Virginia already has two new board members waiting to be seated once the D.C. Council approves the bill -- longtime Fairfax County Supervisor Elaine McConnell and former state House of Delegates candidate Lynn Chapman.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner