The mayors of Dallas and Fort Worth joined key North Texas lawmakers Tuesday to celebrate Congress' repeal of the Wright amendment, calling it nothing short of a miracle.
They vowed to move forward quickly with the terms of the agreement - brokered in June after months of negotiations between the two cities, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, American Airlines Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co. - as soon as President Bush signs the measure.
"For too long, we've tussled over that problem," Mayor Laura Miller said of the Dallas Love Field flight restrictions, speaking at a news conference in the D terminal at D/FW Airport. "It's nice to heal old wounds."
Congress approved legislation to phase out the long-debated flight restrictions at Love late last week, just hours before lawmakers' pre-election recess.
The measure is "sitting on the president's desk," Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said at the news conference, and could be signed in as few as 10 days.
"It took all weekend for me to come back to earth," Ms. Hutchison said, recalling her glee Friday night as she watched the vote board "light up with all those green lights."
"This was truly Team North Texas," she said.
City officials said that once the bill is signed, they'll get down to business again: with major renovations at Love Field and with eminent domain proceedings to seize the former Legend Airlines terminal gates slated for demolition.
Under the agreement, gates at the inner-city airport would be reduced from 32 to 20. The agreement would allow immediate through-ticketing from Love with a stop in the nine-state Wright perimeter - and full repeal in 2014.
But Dallas faces an uphill legal battle, one that appears to grow by the week.
Love Terminal Partners, which holds the lease at the vacant Legend terminal, has filed three lawsuits against the city, alleging anti-trust and open meetings law violations. The group's attorneys say they'll fight to block the city if it begins condemnation proceedings before a court ruling.
"I think it's a bad bill, and I'm proud of my clients for hanging in there," said Bill Brewer, a Dallas lawyer representing Love Terminal Partners. "It's good for the consumers, and it's good for us if we maintain the facility."
Ms. Hutchison, who asked the mayors of Dallas and Fort Worth to craft a local solution to the Wright amendment early this year, said such lawsuits are to be expected.
"I feel sure there will be lawsuits," she said.
Dallas officials, meanwhile, call the suits frivolous.
Ms. Miller said Tuesday that eminent domain proceedings at the Legend terminal will begin "very, very soon" and that she had already spoken with the city manager and city attorney about it.
She also said that plans for Love Field renovations are already in the works and that city officials will sit down with Southwest "the minute the bill gets signed." No architect or designer has been chosen for the project, which, under the agreement, must be complete within eight years.
"Where we are is a very good place," Ms. Miller said.
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The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved the measure with no objections.
Bills to repeal the law have been introduced in the House and Senate. But key Texas legislators are leading a political defense of the law.
Under the plan, North Texas lawmakers, even those supporting repeal, will defer to the Fort Worth and Dallas mayors for a short time to allow them to work out a solution.
The owners of the Legend Airlines Terminal allege that the compromise violates antitrust law.