Yesterday, Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) joined other D.C. metro area legislators in writing to members of the House Appropriations Committee to support airplane noise mitigation provisions in the fiscal year Transportation-Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill.
Beyer is a member of the Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus, and urged the committee to fund health studies on the effects of airplane noise. The legislators cited past studies that have linked excessive exposure to noise with hypertension and learning difficulties.
Beyer requested that appropriators include language directing the Federal Aviation Administration to expedite its review of current noise standards.
“Airplane noise is a pervasive problem around the United States, but especially in Northern Virginia neighborhoods below ever-shifting flight paths in and out of DCA,” said Beyer in a statement. “To date, the FAA has not satisfactorily addressed the situation, while the problem has worsened in many communities. It is past time for Congress to take action, and I hope my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee heed our call.”
Legislators also signed a bipartisan letter urging the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority — which operates Reagan National and Dulles International Airport — not to add more flight traffic at DCA.
They point out that Reagan National has experienced six consecutive years of passenger growth and outpaced passenger volume at Dulles in both 2015 and 2016. In fact, they say domestic commercial passenger traffic since 2000 has increased by 50 percent at Reagan, but it decreased by 9 percent at Dulles.
Congress is preparing to work on legislation to reauthorize the FAA for this year. The delegation said that maintaining the current rules will allow Dulles and BWI to continue to grow and serve long-haul destinations, while also not subjecting National to additional traffic.
“Our airports enable Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia to access the global economy in ways that create jobs and opportunities for the region,” the letter reads. “Part of the rationale for the relocation of major corporate headquarters such as SAIC, Hilton Hotels, Nestle USA and Volkswagen of America is the connectivity our regional aviation system provides.”
Both the House and Senate are expected to consider FAA reauthorization proposals in the coming months. The current FAA authorization expires at the end of September.
Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.
Passengers at the region’s airports could have an easier time during their travels thanks to a new partnership between the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and Crystal City startup incubator 1776.
The partnership, announced last month, means the two organizations will work together to find and mentor firms that look to use technology to make air travel more efficient. That technology includes proposals that can benefit airports, transit agencies and more.
MWAA operates Ronald Reagan Washington National and Dulles airports, as well as the Dulles Airport Access Highway and the Dulles Toll Road. It also manages construction of the Silver Line project into Loudoun County.
“In today’s rapidly changing world of business and commerce, it is imperative that transportation providers, such as airports, take advantage of new technologies that help us meet the demands and expectations of our increasingly mobile customers,” said MWAA president and CEO Jack Potter in a statement.
Already, 1776 is affiliated with companies that look to improve the travel experience in and around airports. The startup incubator, which has an office at 2231 Crystal Drive in Crystal City, partnered with mobile application company Airside Mobile to add Automated Passport Control devices that help international passengers arriving at Washington Dulles International Airport be processed more quickly.
MWAA also has been innovating through a partnership with CLEAR, a firm that helps its members move quickly through airport security lines and advances the use of biometric technology for security screening.
Additionally, the authority has invested in mobile app technology to aid security screening and airport signage, and is developing patented processes and technologies to make airport operations more efficient.
“Startups and new technologies continue to rapidly disrupt the way we travel from point A to point B,” said Evan Burfield, cofounder and CEO of 1776, in a statement. “1776 is excited to partner with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to harness the latest innovations within the transportation and aviation industry.”
The facility will be built on the grounds of Dulles International Airport as a joint venture with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Arlington County will contribute $7 million to the project. MWAA will contribute about $5 million and the land, valued at $6 million.
The new facility is necessary, county officials said, because the Dulles-area range where Arlington officers currently train does not have running water and permanent restrooms. It also has no covered firing points and minimal classroom space.
Other federal and local law enforcement ranges were considered but rejected. An Alexandria shooting range, historically used by Arlington officers, is now only available on an “emergency” basis, and a Loudoun County range is “antiquated,” according to a staff report. The yearly expense of using private ranges, meanwhile, was deemed to be too high.
Building the range in Arlington was considered but rejected due to the fact that it would have to be indoors and would not provide a full range of training options.
“The lack of a permanent home for Arlington’s public safety personnel has hampered training, and increased costs for the County,” county staff reported. “This Agreement guarantees that Arlington will have a secure and up-to-date facility for 25 years in order to meet training needs for Arlington County Police and Arlington County Sheriff uniformed personnel for firearms proficiency training, qualification, and tactical training needs.”
“The training facility will include two 25-lane, 50-yard open firing ranges, along with a 300-yard rifle deck,” the county said in a press release. “The joint facility also will offer a 7,200 square foot modular training building, several classrooms and a secure storage area.”
Plans for the facility were reported by ARLnow.com in April. The plans faced criticism from repeat Green Party candidate for local office Audrey Clement, who questioned the $7 million cost.
“The NRA has a state-of-the-art shooting range just off the I-66, Route 50 exit that offers training for law enforcement personnel,” Clement said. “If this range works for the NRA, and they are highly successful, why won’t it work for Arlington police?”
County officials called a partnership with the NRA “impractical” due to various factors. The joint venture with MWAA, officials said, will allow Arlington and Airports Authority officers to get the firearms training they need for modern law enforcement.
“We are fortunate to have this chance to partner with MWAA in building this much-needed training facility for our law enforcement departments,” said County Board Chair Walter Tejada, in a statement. “This facility will help ensure that our police and sheriff’s deputies, for years to come, will get the training they need to continue to protect and serve our community.”
The new Dulles range is expected to take about a year to build.
Proposals are in the works for constructing a permanent firearms training facility for the Arlington County Police Department and Sheriff’s Office. The preferred plan involves upgrading and expanding a facility on the Dulles International Airport property, which Arlington police currently shared with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) police.
Arlington does not have its own facility for such training, and had been sharing Alexandria’s until 2008. At that time, it was determined that Alexandria’s use had grown to such a point that it could no longer accommodate the more than 350 ACPD members and more than 100 Sheriff’s Office members as well. Arlington has been using the MWAA police shooting range since then.
The Dulles facility is said to need upgrades and an expansion. Right now, it houses a 15 point outdoor range, but under the new plan would expand to include two 25 point firing ranges and a 300 yard rifle deck. The facility currently has no shelter from weather, no running water or fixed restrooms and no classroom space.
An alternative to upgrading the Dulles range would be to find enough land on which to build a training facility within the Arlington County limits. That, however, does not appear to be a viable option, according to Deputy County Manager Mark Schwartz.
“We don’t have the land to do it. Having a firing range within the confines of the county would present some difficulties,” said Schwartz. “Try to find 21 acres in Arlington and just think of the cost.”
Arlington County lists the project in its 2013-2022 Capital Improvement Plan. The proposed price tag of $12 million, $7 million of which would be provided by Arlington County, may seem daunting to some, such as former Arlington County Board candidate Audrey Clement. She spoke at the County Board Public Budget Hearing last Tuesday (March 26), likening the firing range to other county funded projects she considers wasteful, such as Artisphere, the aquatics center at Long Bridge Park and the Columbia Pike streetcar.
“The project’s justification says that the firing range is needed because the one currently in use at Dulles lacks running water, fixed restroom facilities and covered firing points,” she said. “Does providing those facilities actually cost seven million plus dollars? If so, the NRA has a state-of-the-art shooting range just off the I-66, Route 50 exit that offers training for law enforcement personnel. If this range works for the NRA, and they are highly successful, why won’t it work for Arlington police?”
Partnering with the NRA is not feasible, according to Schwartz.
“That comment, I could spend an hour telling you why her suggestion was impractical,” Schwartz said. “I really think the perception would be that this is a ‘nice to have thing.’ I don’t think the county manager or the police chief or sheriffs think this is a ‘nice to have thing.’ This is a very basic part of their training and skills that they need to have.”
ACPD Deputy Chief Jay Farr added that the current cost is a good deal when taking into consideration that MWAA is footing $5 million of the total bill, in addition to supplying the land, which Schwartz estimates to be worth at least $5 million.