The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board voted unanimously Wednesday to approve studying multiple proposals for new access roads on the west side of Dulles International Airport.
As a critical hub for trade and commerce, Dulles needs more access roads for cargo trucks, planners say.
Advocates argue that more access roads could mean more cargo trucks, which could mean more trade in an international economy.
"If we don't improve access to it and the other airports, we're going to find our economic growth declining," says Leo Schefer, Washington Airports Task Force president.
But not everyone is in agreement. Opponents point to the price tag, potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.
"At a time when we're starved for transportation dollars, why are we diverting so much money to these roads on the backside of the airport instead of fixing 66, finishing paying for Dulles rail, revitalizing Route 1 in Fairfax, just dozens and dozens of projects that have not been funded," says Stewart Schwartz, Coalition for Smarter Growth executive director.
In the hundreds of public comments, residents who oppose the proposed access roads call this a foot in the door toward the creation of what they call an "outer beltway."
But board chair and Loudoun County Supervisor Scott York says that is not the plan.
"I hope all would understand that this is about supporting the growth of the international airport," York says.
"The real goal is additional road investment on the backside of the airport to open up the rural areas of Loudoun County and Prince William County to more development," Schwartz says. "Which is gonna mean more traffic upstream as well."
Today's vote means transportation planners will study several alternatives, including the two new access roads or possibly doing nothing at all.
VDOT will then select a preferred alternative before the board votes in July on its long-range transportation plan.