Reagan National and Dulles International Airports are preparing for extra passengers associated with the upcoming presidential inauguration, airport officials reported at the Authority’s first 2013 meeting of its board of directors. The Wednesday meeting featured the swearing-in of newly appointed federal members by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and briefings on the Silver Line rail project, new competitively bid contracts, and the implementation of new policies.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was present to administer the oath of office to the President’s federal appointees William Shaw McDermott and Nina Wells. Chairman Michael A. Curto recognized LaHood as “one of the strongest supporters of the Airports Authority and our efforts to strengthen this organization’s efficiency, transparency, integrity and spirit of public service.”
Expanding the board to its present 16 members also included the seating of Joslyn Williams, who was sworn in Jan. 11 by the government of the District of Columbia. The future federal appointment of a 17th member would fill the final vacant board seat. Curto welcomed the new members, noting they “are all leaders with impressive backgrounds in business and public service, and their experience and expertise will serve the Authority well in the months and years to come.”
With the Jan. 21 presidential inauguration approaching, the Authority police chief and managers of Reagan National and Dulles International reported the airports are preparing for the expected influx of passengers and private aircraft. The effects are forecast to be less pronounced than in January 2009, when about 700 private aircraft arrived at Dulles during inauguration week and about 39,000 passengers departed Reagan National on a single day. With travel expected to peak on Jan. 22, airport staffing will be optimized and passengers are being advised of tips for a smooth airport experience.
Also on Wednesday, the board formally approved an agreement with the Commonwealth of Virginia regarding its $150 million grant to the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project. The agreement calls for the funds to pay interest on Dulles Toll Road bonds issued to fund the Metrorail project. The board-approved toll rate increases for 2013 and 2014 were lower than previous projections before the grant agreement. Airports Authority President and CEO Jack Potter reiterated the Authority’s “goal of keeping toll increases on the Dulles Toll Road as small as possible.” Future toll increases could be reduced through additional Commonwealth funding and the approval of low-interest federal loans.
In a quarterly progress update to the board on Metrorail, Executive Project Director Pat Nowakowski reported Phase 1 construction, currently 87 percent complete, continues on schedule for completion in late August. Heavy construction of track work is complete, with the focus now shifting to finishing stations and installing mechanical and electrical equipment. Construction of the West Falls Church rail yard expansion is expected to continue into December while operational readiness activities proceed along the new rail line. The opening date of Silver Line service to Wiehle Avenue will be determined by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Agency. Procurement of a contractor to design and construct Phase 2 continues on schedule. Final price proposals from the five finalist contractors are due in April, and contract award for the estimated $2.7 billion project is anticipated in May.
Potter briefed the board on several competitively bid contracts that commenced in January. MarketPlace Development now manages the 137 food, beverage and retail leases at Reagan and Dulles airports. The firm of Williams Mullen provides state government relations under a new contract, and JDG Associates will aid in the Authority’s personnel recruiting efforts. A recent advertisement to fill the Authority’s Human Resources Vice President vacancy drew over 300 applicants.
Potter also reported the Authority remains “on a good path toward addressing all the recommendations” from the Department of Transportation Inspector General’s Nov. 1 audit report. Several new policies adopted in 2012 in the areas of travel, ethics, governance and transparency are now in effect. Employees received ethics training and submitted new disclosure forms in compliance with the policy. Potter said the upcoming completion of a new Contracting Manual and purchasing procedures “will close out a number of tasks we are undertaking in response to the Inspector General’s recommendations.”