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Shaping Up the MWAA Board

The MWAA Board needs to regain public confidence.

 I recently attended a briefing for elected officials arranged by Congressmen Gerry Connolly and Frank Wolf on the U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT) Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) review of the management and governance of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), as had been requested by Congressman Wolf. 

Such a periodic review is desirable because MWAA was created by an Act of Congress that established a compact between Virginia and the District of Columbia to operate Dulles International Airport, Ronald Reagan National Airport, the Dulles Toll Road, and construction of the Silver Line.  MWAA serves multiple masters, and an independent review of its operations is important for all stakeholders and the region.  The decisions made by the MWAA Board of Directors have a great impact on many people in the region.

Since MWAA undertook responsibility for the two airports in 1986, it has advanced the level of air service immeasurably.  An undersized and outdated terminal at Reagan National was replaced with a sleek, modern, and efficient terminal.  The iconic terminal at Dulles designed by Eero Saarinen tripled in size while maintaining its historic design. Transport buses that must have seemed modern and efficient when they were introduced have for the most part been replaced with an underground people-mover system. 

The success of MWAA in handling large contracts suggested it as being able to supervise and construct the Silver Line in the Dulles Corridor.  Phase I will be open within less than a year and a half.  The financing plan for Phase II is now being negotiated.  The Commonwealth of Virginia did not have the capacity to manage such a large project without the help of MWAA.

One of the findings of the OIG review to date of projected toll revenues is that they appear reasonable.  Some had predicted much greater toll increases than are likely or necessary.  The interim review raises questions about actions taken by some MWAA board members.  As described in the interim report, a few members have shown very poor judgment.  Policies and procedures need to be tightened to ensure that actions of a few do not distract from the good work done by so many others.  With the very different masters MWAA has in the federal government, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Virginia, it is imperative that the MWAA Board adopt the most stringent policies on tansparency, procurement, and conflicts of interest of any of its three masters in order to show good faith as stewards of public funds.

We cannot let the actions of a few Board members take away from the good work of many.  The MWAA Board needs to shape up itself and maintain public  onfidence.  The work of its staff on the two airport terminals and on Phase I certainly has the admiration of many of us.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Just the Facts May 31, 2012 at 10:25 AM
I agree with this opinion but do have to say I do not agree with the bashing of the MWAA Board. I need to know what tey did wrong? I see they all followed the policies and procedures that are in place. They are following the rules but are being taken to task for following those rules. When I see articles about the cost of airline tickets and dinners as a major problem with a large employer like MWAA is I can only think this is small stuff that really is low hanging fruit for a federal IG Audit to only come up with this as a recommendation to fix. The more important finding were the no bid contracts that need to go before the MWAA Board for approval. It appears most of these no bid contracts were done at the staff level not Board level. But none of the findings showed that MWAA was not managing the rail project well. This is the biggest finding. MWAA has managed the project very well and should be given credit for the well managed project. Let's face it, this is politics. Frank Wolf and Gov McDonnell hate that Mwaa has found a project labor agreement to be good for the project. But give MWAA credit they are doing what is good for the project not politics. If the elected officials would just let MWAA manage the project and leave politics at the door, I think MWAA would get an "A" grade for managing a very hard project under very difficult political circumstances.
Kenneth R. "Ken" Plum June 01, 2012 at 02:53 PM
I agree with your point, but please check the editorial in today's Washington Post, "Airport authority junkets cast shadow over Silver Line project", June 1, 2012. www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/airport-authority-junkets-cast-shadow-over-silver-line-project/2012/05/31/gJQAFK6V5U_story.html.
Bob Bruhns December 13, 2012 at 06:30 PM
How was MWAA's board allowed to get so far out of line that people were not replaced when their terms expired? That wasn't a matter of minutes, or hours, or days, or even months. It was a matter of years! Why was no warning cry sounded by the political appointees on that board? Why did members of both parties just turn their heads, look the other way, and whistle with a little smirk? Just how did the MWAA board get so out of control that we are now serenaded with a litany of the things the DOT Inspector General has reported, and that we keep discovering? This was the Board of the organization that manages two airports in the nation's capitol, billion dollar projects and multi-billion dollar projects! Is this some Hollywood ghost story or something? Where were our Delegates, where were our state Senators, were were our federal representatives, and where was our president? Where was our news media, where were the employee unions, what the heck was going on? Were they not simply playing along the whole time? I see a lot of evidence that says that they were, and that they still are. Why should any of them - ANY OF THEM - not have been summarily dismissed?
The Convict December 13, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Del. Plum, why aren't you advocating and agitating for Reston to become a municipality? It is time for A City Called Reston!

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