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Local Lawmakers Push Back Against Proposal to Sell Reagan National Airport

The Trump administration’s proposal to sell Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport as part of its $200 billion infrastructure plan has been greeted by a chorus of opposition from local lawmakers.

“Trump isn’t trying to fix our infrastructure, he’s trying to sell it off,” tweeted Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.). “This ‘plan’ is nothing but smoke and mirrors.”

The proposal also suggests that the federal government might divest itself of assets like the GW Parkway and the D.C. Aqueduct.

“It is particularly outrageous that Trump suggested selling off key local infrastructure,” Beyer said. “The President didn’t consult any state or local leaders about any of this, but if he had we would have told him that our community ardently opposes anything of the kind.”

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) joined in the opposition, tweeting the following.

Several state legislators from Northern Virginia, including two who represent parts of Arlington, put out a joint press release expressing “strong opposition to President Donald J. Trump’s proposal to sell these two critical national assets.”

“President Trump is gambling with two of our country’s most important transportation assets without considering the high economic stakes,” said Delegate Richard C. “Rip” Sullivan, Jr. (D-McLean). “From Chicago’s Midway Airport to Newburgh’s Stewart International Airport, attempted airport privatization has failed repeatedly, costing taxpayers money and creating economic uncertainty. Taking this risk with airports so critical to Virginia’s economy, not to mention the operation of our nation’s Capital, is simply irresponsible.”

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“These are not just casinos that you can walk away from,” said Senator Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria). “The loss of federal support for these crucial national assets would have an unthinkable impact on our regional economy. The president should not be financing tax cuts for the rich on the backs of Virginia taxpayers and commuters.”

Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman

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Summer Travel Tips for Flying Out of DCA or IAD

Summer is officially here and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has some tips for reducing hassles at the airport during the summer vacation season.

MWAA, which operates Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport, says that travelers should plan ahead, keep an eye on the weather and monitor social media.

Among the tips from the airports authority:

  • “Be aware of airport travel peaks and when to arrive: Passengers should arrive to the airport at least two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights. Peak travel times at the airports include the early morning (6 a.m. to 8 a.m.), mid-day (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and late afternoon (3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.).”
  • “Check in online and print your boarding pass before coming to the airport.”
  • “Follow airport social media accounts for up-to-date information. Passengers should follow @Dulles_Airport and @Reagan_Airport on Twitter and check out FlyDulles and ReaganAirport on Facebook.”
  • “Confirm the status of your flight before coming to the airport. Weather here or even in other parts of the country may affect flight schedules.”
  • “Pack wisely with no prohibited items in carry-on luggage and no valuable items in checked luggage. With the Fourth of July holiday approaching, passengers should remember that fireworks are prohibited at all times.”
  • “Label your luggage so your name is clearly visible.”
  • “Economy lots tend to fill quickly during the summer. Be sure to check parking availability for Reagan National online at flyreagan.com/parking.”
  • Reserve a parking spot: “At Reagan National, ePark allows travelers to assure a parking spot. Travelers can make reservations from 24 hours to six months before their trip. Reservations can be changed or canceled online up to 24 hours before arrival time, free of charge.”

“Travelers should prepare ahead of time, make full use of airport websites and follow airport social media accounts to have the best experience possible,” MWAA said in a press release.

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

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Lawmakers Raise Concerns About Noise, Traffic at Region’s Airports

With residents still worried about the impacts of noise and increased air traffic around Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, the region’s congressional representatives are pushing for change.

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.

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Airports Authority Enters Partnership With Startup Incubator 1776

Startup Monday header

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.

1776 front deskThe 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.

Reagan Airport (file photo)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.”

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Arlington to Contribute $7 Million to New Police Shooting Range

Police Firearm Training Facility at Dulles (photo courtesy MWAA)The Arlington County Board voted unanimously on Tuesday to build a new firearms training facility for Arlington law enforcement officers.

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.

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Plans Underway for Police Shooting Range

Police Firearm Training Facility at Dulles (photo courtesy MWAA)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.

“The possibility of expanding and upgrading the facility is something we’ve been budgeting for,” said MWAA spokesman Rob Yingling. “We’ve been working with Arlington County to expand, but nothing has been finalized yet.”

Farr believes the costs involved with acquiring new land and beginning new construction would far exceed what’s already budgeted.

“We looked at building a bare minimum indoor range in case we couldn’t find the land,” Farr said. “You’re still talking about five to six million dollars just to build a facility that does nothing more than offer 25 yard paper target shooting.”

Farr notes that police training has changed dramatically over the past 20 years, from only using stationary targets to taking on more advanced, engaged scenarios. He says officers are now far better prepared to handle more complex situations, such as mass shootings or terrorist situations.

“People think that when you qualify with a firearm, you go and shoot at a paper target. Technically, you could meet the minimum state qualifications by shooting at a paper target, but that by no means trains your staff for the situations they need to be ready for,” Farr said. “Less than 10 percent of total time on the range focuses on the core minimum of shooting at a paper target. Ninety percent of the time we focus on tactical and response training. We do a lot of things like coming out of a vehicle and running to certain points. Those things are totally impossible in an enclosed facility.”

So far, no facility design has been finalized. Both the Arlington County Board and the MWAA Board need to approve contracts for design and construction before moving forward. That’s expected to happen sometime in the next few months, and construction could possibly begin by the end of this year. Once it begins, construction is expected to take about one year to complete. Police would continue using the existing facility for training during construction.

“For our purposes, it is very much a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to build something of this capacity, this close to the county,” Farr said. “We don’t want to not take advantage of it.”

Photo courtesy Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority

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