“Now is the time,” said Thomas Beatty, vice president of engineering at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates the airport. “We are open for business and looking forward to the next chapter.”
The MWAA is seeking a $230 million grant from the Department of Transportation to help pay for the project. The bipartisan infrastructure bill approved last year provided $5 billion in competitive grants for airports seeking to upgrade and modernize aging facilities, or increase capacity with sustainable, energy-efficient infrastructure. The authority wants to tap into some of the $1 billion in funding made available each year for five years.
Airport officials still need to get approval from the MWAA board and United Airlines, which would operate from the new terminal, to move forward. The carrier has already shown its enthusiasm for the project.
“As the premier airline in Washington Dulles, we support MWAA’s efforts to improve passenger facilities for the benefit of customers, job creation and economic growth in the region,” United said in a statement. communicated. “This proposed project is the type of significant infrastructure investment envisioned in recent infrastructure legislation and we look forward to working with the MWAA and local advocates to support their efforts.”
Passengers now departing from Concourse A use outdoor covered walkways at ground level to board a flight departing from Regional Gates A. In the new concourse, these gates would be replaced by jet bridges in a 400,000 foot building squares with other amenities, including a pet relief area, new restrooms, concessions, and larger seating.
The proposed concourse would move atop an existing AeroTrain stop, eliminating the need for passengers to walk long distances or take a shuttle to their doors. The AeroTrain is Dulles’ automated train system, which was built as part of the airport’s last major upgrade as part of a $3.4 billion project package that expanded the main terminal , added a fourth runway, a new control tower and other elements.
Airport officials have already completed the environmental studies required by the federal government, which they hope will give them an edge as they compete with other airports for funding. The assessments required by the National Environmental Policy Act are designed to ensure that agencies have assessed the environmental, social, and economic impacts of a project.
If the project goes ahead, Dulles will be one of a growing number of airport modernization facilities, many of which date back decades and were never designed to provide safety put in place in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
The authority completed a billion-dollar upgrade package at Reagan National Airport last year, which included a 14-gate concourse to replace the infamous 35X gate that required travelers to be transported by bus to their plane.
Chicago’s O’Hare International, Los Angeles International and Denver International airports are among those that launched major construction projects before the pandemic. With billions of dollars of infrastructure now available to US airports, many more are likely to follow suit.
A recent study by Airports Council International-North America estimated that even before the pandemic, airports had a backlog of $115 billion in planned infrastructure projects. The report estimates that during the pandemic, tens of billions of additional projects were delayed as airports struggled to stay afloat.
Dulles has had its ups and downs over the years. At one point passenger traffic fell behind the much smaller National. In 2018, Dulles rebounded with passenger numbers overtaking National for the first time in several years after a growing list of international carriers announced new or expanded service.
But like most U.S. airports, Dulles has been hit hard by the pandemic as travel demand has waned and has been particularly hard hit by the slump in international travel demand. In recent months, more passengers have returned as the Biden administration moved to lift restrictions on international travelers last year.
If all goes according to plan, Beatty said the authority could launch tenders in the second quarter of this year. He estimated it would take two and a half to three years to build, but the timeline would depend on a variety of factors, including the availability of workers and materials.
“We have good momentum and are eagerly awaiting the return of passengers,” Beatty said. “We are looking for ways to improve the experience of our passengers. It’s a partnership between us and the airlines.