Included in the White House’s proposed $200 billion infrastructure investment package unveiled today is the possibility of selling Dulles Airport.
The proposal is included in a section of the plan that eyes the divestiture of a list of federal properties that “would be better managed by state, local or private entities.”
Reagan National Airport also is on the list. Both are operated by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority under a lease agreement. The MWAA board is comprised of representatives appointed by the governors of Virginia and Maryland, the mayor of Washington, DC, and the president.
The Trump administration said the plan would stimulate $1.5 trillion in infrastructure work over the next 10 years. Critics said the approach simply pushes costs onto state and local governments, while also increasing the national budget deficit.
“What the President proposed today isn’t a real infrastructure plan. It is simply designed to let the President take credit for the investments, while sticking states and localities with the bill,” Sen. Mark Warner said in a statement. “Selling off property like the GW Parkway, Dulles Airport, and Reagan National will not improve our infrastructure – it will only mean higher costs for the traveling public. And as with the rest of the President’s budget request, the Administration does nothing to describe how it would pay for its own transportation proposal.”
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) met with President Donald Trump and his staff this morning about his infrastructure plan, but said that nothing was mentioned about the sale of the two airports. Trump congratulated Northam on his win for governor, and then asked him whether he had any thoughts on infrastructure. The governor asked for the president’s help with dredging the Port of Virginia to make room for larger container ships and for support to improve broadband in the commonwealth.
But of the proposal to sell the airports, Northam said, “I’m not aware of the details of that… We’re very supportive of Dulles Airport,” noting that the state budget last year included $50 million for the airport. “We have two great airports, and I would certainly want to hear more about those plans because I’m not aware of them.”
Democrats representing Loudoun in Virginia’s General Assembly lashed out at the suggestion.
“This is a very bad idea. Infrastructure should not be privatized,” stated Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-33). “Any resident of Loudoun who has to deal with the Greenway, a privately held road with outrageous tolls, can tell you that. We shouldn’t Greenway America.”
“I am fully against any proposal to sell Dulles International Airport to a private entity. Keeping the airport public ensures access, safety, and reliability at one of the largest airports in the nation,” stated Del. John J. Bell (D-87th). “It’s an obligation to provide for a public transportation asset like airports that support our nation’s capital. Long-term viability of the airport must be maintained, as one of the only airports in the United States that has the opportunity for expansion. I condemn the president’s proposal and hope that Congress does not fall into the slippery slope of selling off national assets.”
“Selling national assets such as Dulles International Airport or other critical components of our nation’s infrastructure is short-sighted and poorly considered. Our aviation system is a matter of national security,” stated Delegate Jennifer Boysko (D-86). “I strongly oppose the current president’s proposal to put such important assets up for sale.”
Here is the pertinent section from the president’s 53-page Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America:
The Federal Government owns and operates certain infrastructure that would be more appropriately owned by State, local, or private entities.
For example, the vast majority of the Nation’s electricity needs are met through for-profit investor-owned utilities. Federal ownership of these assets can result in sub-optimal investment decisions and create risk for taxpayers. Providing Federal agencies authority to divest of Federal assets where the agencies can demonstrate an increase in value from the sale would optimize the taxpayer value for Federal assets. To utilize this authority, an agency would delineate how proceeds would be spent and identify appropriate conditions under which sales would be made. An agency also would conduct a study or analysis to show the increase in value from divestiture. Examples of assets for potential divestiture include—
o Southwestern Power Administration’s transmission assets;
o Western Area Power Administration’s transmission assets;
o Ronald Reagan Washington National and Dulles International Airports;
o George Washington and Baltimore Washington Parkways;
o Tennessee Valley Authority transmission assets;
o Bonneville Power Administration’s transmission assets; and
o Washington Aqueduct.