Congress governs operations at Washington’s two airports through the Ocean Rule. It separated short-haul flights into a 1,250-mile radius from the smaller Reagan, which required smaller planes and less infrastructure overall to handle passenger traffic. The larger and more spacious Dulles Airport is designated for long-haul flights to the far western United States and beyond. As a result, Dulles are built to handle the largest passenger airliners and the heavy passenger traffic and baggage that comes with it.
Beginning in 2000, at the behest of business interests in the Far West, congressional representatives from west of the Rocky Mountains began a sustained effort to modify the base of the perimeter so that financiers in an already maxed-out Reagan could be flipped to long distances: to Texas, California, Washington state, etc. . A handful of khans were flipped, and then again and again.
And what was the result? Multiple regional airports have seen direct flights to Washington, D.C. reduced or canceled, and many major corporations have moved their headquarters to larger cities where air travel is more accessible, leaving a wide-ranging negative economic impact in their wake.
It would be a mistake to look at the continuing deterioration of regional air transport and to think that major cities are immune. It would be akin to the frog believing that the warmer water temperature could be tolerated. This would deliver the exact result that the architects of this plan had hoped to achieve.
The cumulative effect of the ocean base reverses a significant increase in traffic to destinations farther west with the goal of expanding the tourism and convention industries at the expense of traditional convention destinations, such as McCormick Place in Chicago. There are more than 3,000 societies in Washington, D.C., many of which hold an annual conference.
For the fourth time, an effort is under way for this Congress to turn more of the gates, and there are whispers to completely get rid of the rule of thumb surrounding the openings in Reagan. With thousands of associations in the Capitol District, many of which book meetings and conferences in other cities, the allure of direct access between the Far West markets and Reagan is obvious. They want access to a Washington airport that will grow the tourism and convention business, even if that same airport isn’t built for the size of planes and passenger loads serving long-distance routes.
Much of Illinois has already been hit by the multiple perimeter rule modifications, which have taken away businesses and jobs. With a new set of slots to lose this Congress, the effects will be felt in the Chicago meetings and convention industry. This will affect hotels, restaurants, transportation, and other jobs that depend on these meetings.
U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth sits on the Commerce Committee and opposes any changes to the perimeter rule that would lead to a further shake-up of Reagan’s positions. That’s great, but our representatives and their fellow neighbors need more. This is a regional issue, not a partisan one. Members of both Houses whose seats lie within the perimeter should oppose any further changes and inform their colleagues in the West that the consequences of continuing this effort would generate an equally important response to the commercial interests of their district.
Mark Hanna He is the CEO of the Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport/Springfield Airport Authority. jAck Lavigne He is the President and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. Mike Murphy He is the President and CEO of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. Keith States Interim President and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.