Wednesday, Apr. 22, 2015 by Trevor Baratko
Anyone who doubts the severity of the problems facing Dulles International Airport – the hundreds of millions in capital debt, dip in passenger totals and a consistent failure to compete with the smaller Reagan National down the road – need only consider the speakers headlining an April 16 seminar on why Dulles matters.Click here for the rest of this article.
There, in an open conversation hall at AOL's Dulles headquarters, stood a governor, a U.S. Senator, congresswoman and a half-dozen state and local politicians. All were speaking to the airport's importance, and listening were more than 300 stakeholders and interested parties. These were busy people – busy people who made time for Dulles, because they know the airport is struggling, and they know they need solutions.
Passenger counts at Dulles have fallen over the past decade, from a peak of more than 27 million in 2005 to 23.6 million in 2010 and less than 22 million in 2014. Cargo activity too has dipped, about 25 percent in the past five years.
Two key stats further underscoring Dulles' trials note that nearly the same number of travelers used Dulles and Reagan in 2014, this despite Dulles being 14 times larger than Reagan, and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates Dulles and Reagan, has racked up about $240 million in annual debt service.
Why does the success and viability of Dulles matter? It's simple, economists and politicians say. The airport generates more than $1.2 billion a year in state and local tax revenue for Virginia, D.C. and Maryland, and it supports nearly 250,000 direct or indirect jobs, according to a study commissioned by MWAA. . . .
While the downward trend in Dulles air traffic has been know for some time, it's linkage and impact on the rest of the area's County--especially the much vaunted "Dulles Corridor" including Tysons and our own Reston--is another sign of the growing economic difficulty of Fairfax County and especially the Dulles Corridor which is counting on the Silver Line to be the engine of County growth for decades to come. That fewer people that use or work or ship at Dulles only adds to the growing laundry list of things not quite working the way developers and politicians fantasized more than a decade ago when planning for the Silver Line got serious.
We can hope that completion of the Silver Line through IAD and into Loudoun County, now scheduled for 2018, will help reverse the trend for the airport and the corridor, but it will take a long, long time.