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Regional airport could add commercial services, increase flights to capital region

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(The Center Square) – It’s uncertain how a May bill proposing further deregulation of Reagan National Airport will fare, but there are other efforts currently underway in Virginia that could offer more options for travelers to the capital region.

Manassas Regional Airport is discussing a possible expansion with airport management company Avports that would allow it to start offering commercial flights.

Avports, which is headquartered in Dulles and manages Dulles International Airport and 10 other airports, initiated such conversations with Manassas’ Airport Director Juan Rivera over a year ago.

After lots of back-and-forth, the city’s Airport Commission was sufficiently pleased to recommend Avports’ plan in June for approval by the city.

Avports would lease the airport grounds and build a 35,000-square-foot addition, which could ultimately facilitate up to 30 commercial passenger flights per day.

“This is right down the street from our headquarters,” said Matt Shelby, Avports’ vice president for business development. “We want this to be a flagship for us, and we’re going to do it right.”

The airport can begin offering 10 commercial flights per day in two years or less upon completion of the project’s first phase – the modification of the existing space for commercial security, including the Transportation Security Administration.

Once phase one is underway, phase two can begin. It includes the construction of a new terminal, along with expanded parking for expanded operations.

The expansion would cost Avports an estimated $75-$125 million, and the lease of the grounds alone would bring a minimum of $600,000 in revenue to the airport.

“I’m excited,” said Manassas Mayor Michelle Davis-Younger. “It’s going to be a wonderful thing for us and take us to the next level.”

If the legislation regarding Reagan National Airport, or DCA, were to pass, the airport could accommodate another 28 flights daily for the region.

Reps. Burgess Owens R-Utah and Hank Johnson D-Ga. sponsored the Direct Capital Access Act of 2023 to modify the perimeter rule, a federal regulation enacted in 1969 to restrict air traffic at DCA by disallowing nonstop flights of more than 1,250 miles.

Though a bipartisan bill, the act has garnered more Republican support so far. Twenty-seven Republicans and only eight Democrats co-sponsored the bill.

Supporters say the federal regulation is outdated and makes flights more expensive for travelers.

“Modernizing the perimeter rule will improve access to Washington, D.C., reduce airline ticket prices, and increase tax revenue for the area,” Owens said.

Detractors, like Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, argue that the increased traffic will unsustainably overburden the airport.

The Coalition to Protect America’s Regional Airports says that Reagan National Airport is already at capacity and that expanding the airport’s existing perimeter and slot rules will only “increase delays, congestion, noise, and safety concerns at the busiest runway in America.”

Manassas’ next City Council meeting, where they will further discuss the proposed airport expansion, is July 10. The DCA Act was in committee as of May 11 and has not yet come before the House for a vote.

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