As the voice of business in Utah, the Salt Lake Chamber aims to promote and expand economic opportunity and prosperity. One of our primary functions is to help businesses in the state achieve their full potential. Together, the private and public sectors have worked cooperatively to make Utah one of the best states in the country for business. In order to continue the upward trajectory, Utahns need increased access to our nation’s capital.
Direct air travel between Utah and Washington, D.C., is severely limited due to an outdated regulation known as the “perimeter rule,” a 1960s-era Federal Aviation Administration policy that restricts the number of flights that can land at or take off from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) beyond a 1,250-mile perimeter. Utah is one of 11 states that sits entirely outside of this decades-old artificial boundary.
Utah is a state on the move, economically and demographically, thanks to our massive population growth. This fact alone demands action now to meet the growing need for our business, government and community leaders to travel to Washington, D.C. Many decisions impacting Utah’s future are made in the halls of government, where powerful institutions and individuals responsible for regulating and guiding business confer. One example is the annual trip of Utah business leaders, organized by the Salt Lake Chamber, to Washington, D.C., to meet with Utah’s congressional delegation and other federal officials to share legislative priorities
Utahns’ current access to Washington, D.C., is already insufficient, especially for one of the country’s premier economies and fastest-growing populations. Unfortunately, the current perimeter rule means there is only one daily direct flight between Salt Lake City International Airport and DCA, often making the trip inconvenient and expensive for Utah businesses.
A recent study by Boston Consulting Group found “the perimeter rule is no longer necessary to support its original objectives,” and that it is harmful to metropolitan communities and consumers. Additionally, DCA is currently underutilized and can handle thousands more passengers per day; however, those seeking to travel to Washington, D.C., face some of the most expensive ticket prices in the nation due to a lack of direct flight options.
Congress should take the logical next steps to address the lack of access Utah and other Western states have to our nation’s capital when they take up the FAA Reauthorization bill later this year. Authorizing additional in- and beyond-perimeter flights at DCA will provide increased access to legislators for Utahns, more affordable ticket prices spurring travel, and the added convenience when flying. Thankfully, some Utah legislators are already on board, including U.S. Reps. Blake Moore and John Curtis. Removing this outdated and unnecessary regulation is something our entire delegation and leaders across the Western states should unite around.
Utah is home to world-class companies across many industries with a growing innovation hub that could benefit from direct linkages to our capital city. We ask Utah’s Congressional Delegation to work with their colleagues on this issue to increase access to our nation’s capital. Doing so will help better serve Utah’s business community and residents across the state who are counting on more affordable, convenient access to Washington, D.C. As Utah and so many other Western states continue to grow, let’s ensure the perimeter rule is growing with us!
Derek Miller is the president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber.