D.C.’s Dulles Airport Halfway Through $3B Expansion Job

Wed January 26, 2005 - Northeast Edition

WASHINGTON (AP) The busiest airport in the Washington region is approximately halfway through a $3-billion construction project.

By 2009, officials at Washington Dulles International Airport hope to finish part of a subway system, one of two new runways, a larger control tower, more gates and possibly a new concourse.

This month, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expected to release the draft environmental impact statement on plans for the runways, taxiways and concourse. The FAA has been looking at the need for the runways, their design and possible locations, as well as potentially not building them. Noise is a big concern.

“More planes will create more noise,” said Tom Sullivan, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokesman. But, he said, land use patterns around Dulles “give us a buffer zone so the loudest noise will stay on the airport property.”

The authority hopes the three-year environmental review will wrap up this year and construction can start on one runway in 2006. Planes could be taking off from the 9,500 ft. long north-south runway by 2008.

“You’re going to have three aircraft all at the same time coming in for landings, and now we can only have two,” Sullivan said.

Dulles has approximately 470,000 takeoffs and landings a year, with approximately 569,000 anticipated by 2010.

If approved, the new Concourse C would be built behind the current Concourse C/D, which was meant to be temporary when it went up in the 1980s.

The three-level new concourse would have more space for seating, walking, offices and shops. The new building will be able to handle 44 aircraft, including some of the largest planes that can carry approximately 600 passengers. A subway would connect travelers from the terminal to the concourses.

The airport opened two garages with a combined 8,500 spaces in 2002 and 2003. Last year, four gates were added to Concourse B and a walkway opened between the main terminal and the concourse, providing an alternative to boarding mobile lounges. The unique vehicles, which carry passengers between the terminal and concourses, will eventually be replaced by the airport subway.

No grand openings are planned for this year, but Sullivan said there will be continued work on the subway, a dozen more gates and a control tower which will top 325 ft. — approximately twice the size of the current one.

Approximately 23 million people passed through the airport in 2004. The airport could handle more than double that when all the projects are finished.