A day after U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issued a scathing letter criticizing MWAA, the agency that oversees Reagan National and Dulles Airports, a member of that agency's board of directors is pushing back.
LaHood publicly admonished the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board of directors a day after praising the authority's biggest project — the Silver Line — as a model for the entire country, comparable to the Panama Canal.
"I do not think it was unfair or inaccurate," MWAA board member Bob Brown said. "I was a little surprised to see the date on it, however, because most of what is in that letter is old news."
Some of what Brown refers to as old news has to do with overseas travel expenses. Board Member Dennis Martire burned through almost $40,000 to attend conferences in 2010 and 2011, according to MWAA records. Martire declined to comment for this story, as he is locked in a legal battle with the state of Virginia after Gov. Bob McDonnell attempted to remove him from the board. The Airports Authority has revised its travel policy.
"I don't think anyone should conclude that the people associated with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority are going to stop traveling. That is not in the interest of the Airports Authority," says Brown. "It is not in the interest of promoting better air service in the Washington region."
Brown says MWAA should be congratulated for its handling of the Silver Line Rail project to Dulles. If anything, he says criticism should be directed at Virginia, which has committed only $150 million of the project's approximate $5.5 billion cost. Brown says he hopes Secretary LaHood will push for additional federal dollars.
"There is no major transportation project anywhere in the country of this scale that is being built so heavily on the backs of local funding," Brown said.
Federal funding covers about one-sixth of the Silver Line's costs.
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