I am beyond excited to see this moving forward. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) in Arlington, Virginia -- just across the river from Washington, DC -- is beginning $1 billion in renovations that will see an entirely new concourse added in addition to completely revamped ticketing and security facilities allowing passengers to move freely between concourses without having to pass back out of security. The artist renderings are gorgeous. Locals and anyone who has ever flown in from smaller cities featuring small commuter planes know what a big deal this is.
Some background is necessary. DCA in its current shape was built to move 15 million passengers per year, but it moved over 23.5 million in 2016. It is the largest airport in Virginia by annual passenger volume (edging out Dulles by about 1.5 million people per year), and is just about 1.5 million per year short of BWI to be the largest airport in the Washington, DC region. Yet DCA is serving its 23.5 million passengers with 46 gates on 18 acres of land, while Dulles is serving its 22 million passengers with 123 gates on 13,000 acres of land. National handles more passengers per gate per year than Atlanta, which is the busiest airport in the world. Last year it once took me all of eleven minutes to walk out of my living room, hop in a Lyft, arrive at the airport, pass through security, and sit in my plane seat. Eleven. Minutes. I timed it. The wonder-of-the-world efficiency with which the crew at National does the work of a big airport in such a small space is astonishing. As someone who was born in Arlington and today lives so close to the airport that from my dining room window I can read the letters painted on planes, I am really proud of the airport I call home.
Yes, but... it is bursting at the seams with people. Gate 35x alone fields arrivals and departures for about ten separate planes to which one must board a bus, get driven out to the tarmac, and hope that it isn't raining when your flight gets called.
I'll not rehash what you can learn direct from the source at the airports Project Journey website. Go check it out.
I do have one misgiving, and am curious to see if (or what) the designers do about this. National is pretty unique among airports anywhere because of how close it is the city center, and how easily accessible it is via the Metro rail. The station through which trains run less than every ten minutes is but a two-minute walk from the main concourse, National Hall, a bright and architecturally beautiful building that is itself home to a variety of restaurants and shops. Thus National Hall doubles as an air transportation hub, and a gathering place for locals catching someone for lunch on their way out of town, meeting for business, or picking something up at a shop. I'd hate to lose this, so hope that we see a new configuration where some restaurants can exist outside of security after National Hall is walled off as an exclusively post-screening area. Time will tell, but I am not optimistic.
Otherwise, this is a welcome project sure to improve what is already one of America's best airports. We're excited to have front row seats on the action.