ANNAPOLIS — In a brief Board of Public Works meeting, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, again sitting in for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, expressed an interest in growing international travel at Baltimore/Washington International Airport.
Rutherford, a Republican, acknowledged the governor’s “adamant” desire for BWI’s growth in the Washington, D.C., market and increasing competition with Dulles International Airport.
Discussion stemmed from a two-year contract renewal by the Department of Transportation and Maryland Aviation Administration for marketing and advertising services with a private company. The contract, which will run until December 2017, is for $2,400,000.
Though this specific contract focused on marketing the airport to consumers, Rutherford questioned whether BWI was also marketing itself toward other airlines. The airport is a hub for Southwest Airlines, which arrived in 1993 and expanded through the 2000s.
“You’re the expert, I’m not, but it appears that Delta could be someone to go after. They have their hub in Atlanta and a smaller, satellite hub at JFK,” Rutherford said, addressing Ricky Smith, the chief executive of BWI and head of the Maryland Aviation Administration. “Is it possible to have a satellite hub here, which will then help our international travel?”
Smith said officials had not spoken with Delta Airlines about creating an additional hub at BWI, and added that a premier carrier, like Southwest, can deter other prospects.
Last year, the number of international passengers at BWI grew by about 12 percent, according to Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn.
Still, as Southwest doesn’t offer much flight coordination with other carriers, passengers taking international flights may have a difficult time connecting to other destinations, Rutherford said.
BWI spokesman Jonathan Dean said that Southwest has indicated that it intends to grow its international service at BWI in the coming years, which he said would be an important benefit for the airport’s travelers.
“That would be a game-changer for Maryland because it would really open BWI into an international prospect,” Smith said.
According to Brad Hawkins, a representative for Southwest Airlines, BWI is the second-largest airport in terms of daily departures for the primarily domestic carrier — with nearly 240 flights a day to 63 cities.
Franchot, a Democrat, praised Southwest Airlines, calling on the aviation administration to “nurture” their relationship with the airline, as they are the “future of that airport.”
Among other measures, the board also approved a redevelopment project for a block of real estate owned by the University of Maryland, Baltimore, which officials hope will ultimately spur economic development in the surrounding area.
Through a 75-year lease by the university, for $90,000 annually, developers plan to turn the property into rental housing, retail and office space and parking.
“UMB strives to be the best neighbor it can for the West Baltimore community,” said Alex Likowski, director of media relations for the university. “This is a project that has been a long time coming and it would be a very positive addition to the neighborhood.”
Franchot congratulated the university’s president, Jay Perman, on moving forward “with something that frankly makes sense” — a sentiment Rutherford shared.
“West side development is something that has been in the works for a number of years,” he said. “Anything the university can do down there helps, so thank you.”
All measures passed unanimously, including votes from state Treasurer Nancy Kopp, D. The board also approved:
*An emergency $600,000 contract to hire auditors to review and process roughly 18,000 amended tax returns. The emergency was declared Sept. 15, following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Comptroller v. Wynne that found taxpayers who claimed tax credits on Maryland returns for taxes paid to other states ought to be allowed to claim tax credits against county taxes in addition to state taxes.
*A contract revision for $857,136 for armed uniformed guard services at the 5th Regiment Armory Headquarters in Baltimore. Col. Charles Kohler, public affairs officer for the Maryland National Guard, said the security increase is “based on the potential threat and recent targeting of military installations and personnel” nationwide. “It is our job to make sure that we are not victims but that we are ready to respond to help others when called,” he said.
*A $55,533 emergency contract for 17 months of water testing at Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, after a resident who had tested positive for legionella died. The Secretary for Veterans Affairs, George Owings III, reported that the outbreak was “resolved now” and that testing will continue through the duration of the contract in July 2016.