On June 7, 1987, Washington Dulles International and Washington National Airports were transferred to the Airports Authority under a 50-year lease authorized by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Act of 1986, Title VI of Public Law 99-500. All property was transferred to the Airports Authority, and the Federal government holds title to the lease. Prior to the transfer, the airports were owned and operated by the Federal Aviation Administration in the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The Airports Authority operates a two-airport system that provides domestic and international air service for the mid-Atlantic region. The organization consists of more than 1,700 employees in a structure that includes central administration, airports management and operations, and police and fire departments.

On February 6, 1998, President William Jefferson Clinton signed into law the bill introduced and passed in Congress that changed the name of Washington National Airport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

In addition to operating Reagan National and Dulles International, the Airports Authority is responsible for capital improvements at both airports. Major renovations at Reagan National Airport resulted in the opening of Terminal B/C (later renamed Terminal 2) on July 27, 1997--providing more comfortable and efficient passenger facilities that are convenient to the Metrorail system and parking garages. Nearly 20 years later, unprecedented passenger growth beyond the terminal's designed capacity led to the construction of Project Journey. The $1 billion construction program eliminated buses to 14 outdoor airline gates, added two screening checkpoints and set the stage for DCA Reimagined, a project to improve customer amenities throughout Terminal 2.

The Dulles Development program, or D2, was a $5 billion capital construction program that improved the facilities and provided additional capacity at Dulles Airport. New facilities completed in the D2 program included a new airport traffic control tower, expanded airline gates, a fourth runway and the AeroTrain system--which opened in 2010. Additional expansion at Dulles is underway to increase airline operating capacity and further improve passenger facilities.

On November 1, 2008, the Commonwealth of Virginia transferred the daily operation, maintenance and control of the Dulles Toll Road to the Airports Authority. Tolls collected are used for operation, maintenance and improvements in the Dulles corridor, and to fund a portion of the construction of Metrorail in the Dulles corridor.

The Airports Authority managed the project to extend Metrorail service along the Silver Line to Dulles Airport and Loudoun County. Construction commenced on March 10, 2009, and the first phase to Reston opened on July 26, 2014. The second phase to Dulles and Loudoun County opened on November 15, 2022. The 23.1-mile extension includes 11 stations, a rail-car storage yard and a maintenance facility.

The Airports Authority is not taxpayer-funded but is self-supporting, using aircraft landing fees, rents and revenues from concessions to fund operating expenses. Airport capital improvements are funded by bonds issued by the Airports Authority, Federal and State Airport Improvement Program funds and Passenger Facility Charges. Expenses from construction of the Silver Line extension are funded by the Airports Authority and its project partners in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Federal Government and from revenue generated by the Dulles Toll Road.

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