Last month, Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C. celebrated 75 years of operation. During its tenure, the airport has witnessed an unprecedented surge in passengers. Serving more than 23 million passengers last year, National has arguably surpassed even President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vision for it when he watched its first arrival, an American Airlines DC-3, touchdown in 1941.
Now plans courtesy of AIR Alliance, a joint venture between engineering firm AECOM and Houston-based PGAL, are set to replace Gate 35X with a new building that will ease passenger congestion. Known for its pedigree in the typology, PGAL is also working on Newark Liberty, Fort Lauderdale, and Los Angeles international airports.
Financed by the airlines, the scheme is set to total $1 billion and will increase the airport’s square footage by about five percent. For some time now, National has been a headache for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA). Currently, Dulles International Airport sees fewer flyers pass through its gates, yet is 14 times larger than National. Additionally, Dulles is located more than 25 miles from D.C., whereas National is only approximately five miles away and a mere 30 minutes via public transport.
“The project is focused on improving the customer experience at Reagan National Airport,” said Chris Paolino of MWAA. “We aren’t increasing any airfield capacity—there will be no new flights—but the project will better accommodate the record growth in passengers we have already had.” The way the notorious Gate 35X is set up, passengers saddled with flights out of there have to take a shuttle bus and brave the conditions when climbing up outdoor stairs to board aircraft. Paolino said that the new concourse will operate like a “traditional gate” where passengers can finally find shelter from the elements.
The security checkpoint location is another aspect slated for an overhaul. “At this point, the plan is for the security checkpoints to be located near the end of the walkways from the garages and metro station, which will shift the large expanse of shopping and dining locations that had been pre-security to post-security,” Paolino said. “We will also be shifting the security checkpoints from the base of each gate area in the B/C Terminal to more centralized locations. This will allow for better flow of passengers between gate areas and ease crowding in the gate areas, especially during irregular operations, such as winter weather, where flight delays compound the problem.”
Presently, connecting passengers must go through security twice (coming out and then back in) or take a bus to get from one gate to another. Despite being in the pipeline since 2014, renderings have only just begun to be leaked. Work is due to start this fall, and Paolino said passengers will begin to see more evidence of the construction next spring. Heading up the construction is New York–based Turner Construction Company. Completion is slated for 2024.