GRAVELLY POINT, Va. – As an airplane seared the low grey sky behind her, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton pointed to it and expressed concern that a bill moving through Congress could increase traffic and noise at Washington National Airport.
“The sound you just heard is the sound my constituents [have] heard,” said Norton, a Democrat. “There are too many airplanes flying over this airport.”
Norton joined three local congressmen – Rep. Connie Morella, R-Montgomery, Rep. Jim Moran, D-Alexandria and Rep. Tom Davis, D- Fairfax – at a press conference Tuesday denouncing a bill approved Monday by a House transportation subcommittee.
The bill would limit local control of Washington National Airport, forcing the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority to continue to be monitored by a congressional advisory board.
“No other airport in the country is subject to this kind of micro-management by Congress,” said Morella.
The bill also would transfer control of airport traffic to the Department of Transportation.
“To lift the traffic restrictions opens us up to all kinds of traffic and more noise,” said Annette Davis, a member of Citizens for the Abatement of Airport Noise. “People have had enough already.”
“It’s noisy and it’s dangerous,” Morella said of the traffic.
An average of 63 flights leave Washington National Airport each hour, Moran said. Flights are restricted between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. to airplanes that meet noise control standards.
The citizens’ noise control group has twice challenged congressional oversight of the airport authority. In 1991, the Supreme Court found the oversight to be unconstitutional and in 1994 it reaffirmed the decision.
The congressional oversight “moves [MWAA] away from our local control,” said activist Davis. “Local people have no redress. Our community has very little input into the airport.”
But Congress members are reluctant to let go. The House Transportation and Infrastructure aviation subcommittee on Monday approved a bill maintaining the congressional board and adding four presidential nominees to the airport authority.
“There is a very real national interest in these airports,” said bill supporter Rep. Norman Y. Mineta, D-Calif., referring to National and Dulles International airports. He said they are the gateways to the nation’s capital.
The bill also would make the authority subject to renewal by Congress every two years. “That’s another thing that seems to me unconstitutional,” activist Davis said. Norton said the two-year renewal provision would affect the airport’s bond rating and interfere with its ability to get contracts. “It would put airport renovations on hold,” she said. -30-