Congratulations to our top performers for 2017:
Ed McGee 409.5 hours
Irena Pipikiene 312 hours
Carolyn Myles 305 hours
Mark Shafer 290.5 hours
Florence Starzynski 276 hours
Paul Starzynski 276 hours
Mike Miller 271 hours
Gail Kuliecza 231.25 hours
John Kuliecza 228.25 hours
David Brough 215.25 hours
Joe Downey 215.25 hours
On February 20, 2018, Volunteer Ed McGee was presented with the William Dukstein Service Award for 2017. Ed volunteered 409.5 hours at Reagan National in 2017. The William Dukstein Service Award was established last year in recognition of volunteer Bill Dukstein who died on March 18, 2017. Bill was consistently the top performer while a volunteer at Reagan. The first recipient of the William Dukstein Service Award was Volunteer Carolyn Myles for 2016.
Work begins next week on a $1 billion revitalization project at Reagan National Airport that officials say will deliver a new concourse for short-hop flights and new security screening areas in 2021. But it will be a painful process getting there — with lane closures and traffic disruptions around the area as construction starts.
Construction activity kicks off Monday, closing travel lanes overnight in the Arrivals area of terminals B and C. By spring, the stretch of the lower-level roadway that provides access to the airport will be a round-the-clock work zone with more widespread lane shutdowns, the kind that will probably create traffic backups.
The work will not affect the upper-level access road used for departure drop-offs.
If you travel frequently, or at all, from National, now is the time to start paying attention to what’s coming.
“In the first year of construction, some of the impacts on the roadways will be such that considering alternates is going to be strongly advised,” said Rob Yingling, a spokesman with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates National.
A rendering of the new concourse with 14 gates connected to regional aircraft at Reagan National Airport. (Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s “Project Journey”)
The authority says that despite traffic-control measures, there’s no way around the construction. Drivers should prepare for backups and heavier traffic near the terminals. Motorists also should anticipate changes to traffic patterns. Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft could be diverted to pick up customers on the departures level instead of arrivals.
Metro might be your best bet for avoiding the construction zone. But two major maintenance projects will affect the National Airport Metro station later this year.
Airport police will manage traffic flow, officials say, and they anticipate more significant backups when heavy construction takes place this spring and into the summer, as well as during peak travel periods around the holidays. But they say they don’t foresee chaotic scenes like those experienced at other big-city airports undergoing major construction.
In New York, for example, construction activity related to a $5.1 billion project at LaGuardia Airport has led to massive traffic tie-ups on access roads, including cases in which fliers have been forced to drag their bags along the side of the road just to get to the airport.
“Compared to LaGuardia, the work that we are doing here is less invasive, less extensive and it is not expected to have the same level of impact,” Yingling said.
The construction at National won’t take any airline gates out of service, remove roadways or demolish parking garages “on the scale of what’s happening at places like LaGuardia,” he said. “It’s really about improving the airport experience, given the explosive growth in enplanement that has taken place at Reagan National, while not expanding the operational capacity of the airport.”
Nearly 24 million passengers traveled through National in 2016, the latest year for which data is available, making it the second-busiest airport in the region, after Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport. It was National’s sixth straight year of record-high passenger traffic.
And that’s a reason, officials say, to embark on this ambitious “Project Journey” — which also is the first major construction rehabilitation at the airport in two decades.
Frequent fliers who choose National for the easy access say they appreciate the improvements but add that they hope the airport keeps the impact on travelers to a minimum.
“We will probably play it by ear and see just how bad it gets,” said Sheldon Gilbert, an Arlington resident who travels out of National almost weekly on business. “It is hard to imagine those of us who are frequent users of Reagan making a switch to another airport. There might be frustration with the congestion and we might have to budget in more time to get in and out of the airport. But it still is going to be probably less time than driving to BWI.”
In the coming weeks, some travel lanes will close to give workers — and equipment — room to begin laying the groundwork for heavy construction, expected as early as the spring.
A new concourse will replace the infamous Gate 35X, a chokepoint where fliers are required to board buses to get to their planes. The concourse will be next to terminals B and C on the airport’s northern end. The project also will bring changes to National Hall, the main glass-enclosed walkway on the concourse level. Security screening will be moved upstairs to the airport’s arrival level, closing the hall off to the general public. Officials say travelers will be able to move through security faster in the new setting, which will have 28 screening lanes, up from 20.
The construction of two buildings that will house the new security screening areas will generate the most significant impacts on vehicular traffic; they will be built over some of the traffic lanes for arrivals.
That lower-level roadway has eight lanes divided by a median where passengers wait for their rides. The four lanes closest to the airport entrance are used by commercial vehicles such as taxis and shuttles. The other four lanes, closest to the Metro tracks, are used by general traffic.
Work will be done at night this week to create three slip ramps in the pedestrian median. This will allow authorities to move traffic through work zones during later phases of construction, by shifting traffic from the commercial lanes to the general traffic lanes and vice versa. Some sections of the roadway will be widened in early March, as part of a strategy to expand the road capacity during construction.
Drivers entering the airport from the George Washington Memorial Parkway or Route 1 will encounter the signs of construction as they get closer to the terminals. The actual construction will be on the airport road used to pick up arriving travelers, and affecting the activity at the curbs of terminals B and C
By mid- to late March, cranes will be on-site to begin excavation and building the underground pilings for the 100 columns that will support the security screening buildings just outside terminals B and C. That work will last about a month and require round-the-clock closures of two lanes.
As construction begins, most of it will be done overnight, from midnight to 9 a.m., which means crews will have to pack up their equipment after each shift to allow for traffic flow — not the most efficient way to work, but the only way to ensure smooth travel during the airport’s busiest hours.
“I have seen the airport recommend folks take Metro,” said Gilbert, who works at a nonprofit group based in Arlington and hails a ride to and from the airport. “It is just so painful using Metro these days. It is kind of a poor alternative given the track record of Metro.”
Airport officials are recommending travelers leave the airport via Metro to avoid navigating through the construction zone in the arrivals pickup areas. They also say fliers can meet their rides in the airport’s parking garage to avoid the work zone entirely. As construction progresses, the airport may consider offering free parking for up to an hour for people picking up travelers and sending ride-hailing services to the departures area.
“It is great that they are expanding the airport. But they ought to be very sensitive to what experience they are providing for people who are trying to get in and out of the airport and whether they are maintaining the principal benefit of Reagan, which has always been that it is convenient to get in and out,” Gilbert said.
REAGAN NATIONAL AIRPORT — Driving to or through Reagan National Airport is expected to include detours and delays for at least the next year, as construction ramps up next week on two new security checkpoint buildings.
At the busiest times, the delays could lead to backups on the George Washington Parkway. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority hopes to limit delays on the busiest holidays such as Thanksgiving, but expects work to continue at other times.
The eight lanes normally available on the lower level could be reduced to two lanes in some stretches, as dozens of columns and beams are set over the coming year.
Starting next week, crews will create cut-throughs in the median on the lower arrivals level roadway, the authority is set to announce Friday. The cut-throughs will be used as part of zigzag detours when either taxi lanes or the general lanes in front of Terminal B/C are closed during construction.
Survey and setup work has already begun.
The first major delays are expected to start as soon as late March, when a stretch of two lanes closes for about a month in the area where regular drivers typically go to pick up friends and family.
Similar long-term lane closures are scheduled to be common over the next year until the new security checkpoint buildings are fully enclosed.
During the work, some stretches of pickup lanes are expected to be designated as no-stopping zones in the hope of keeping traffic moving. Uber and Lyft pickups could also be moved to the upper level.
The airport is lowering the speed limit to 15 mph in the work area for the next year.
Until major lane closures begin, work over the next few weeks is scheduled to be largely focused on the slowest times for taxi and other car pickups from the airport — midnight to 9 a.m.
“We have police officers that will be dedicated to this project, who know traffic patterns well, and work with the public well, and will be focused on keeping traffic moving as much as possible through this area when conditions are challenging,” Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokesman Rob Yingling said.
They will be mainly deployed during the closures with the greatest impact that run 24/7.
“We’ll also be asking for the public’s help in changing the way they use the airport to reduce congestion as well,” Yingling said.
Alternatives include Metro, using the upper level departures roadway to pick up a loved one at night when there are few people checking in for flights, or meeting in one of the parking garages.
The airports authority is considering changes to parking fees, such as waiving fees for the first hour, that would make a garage pickup a more attractive option and reduce the number of cars stopped along the arrivals roadway.
For those who think Metro is not an option even during times when the system is open, Yingling suggested taking Metro a stop or two in either direction to get picked up at stations such as Braddock Road or Pentagon City, so drivers can avoid some of the traffic.
The roadway system is expected to largely get back to normal congestion levels by the spring of 2019.
What’s being built?
At the end of construction in 2020, two new security checkpoint structures will open between the Metro tracks and what is now called Terminal B/C.
The checkpoints will be on the same level as the bridges connecting Metro and the parking garage to the terminal, but the structure will be taller to allow light in.
Each of the new 50,000 square-foot security buildings will cover about a quarter of the length of the main terminal. They will host ticketing kiosks, some new concession space, some seating areas that will be outside the secure area, and plenty of room for security lines. Existing ticketing inside the terminal will remain, but passengers will need to double back to go through security.
Each building will have room for up to 14 security checkpoints, for a total of 28. Today, the terminal has room for 20.
The existing security checkpoints in the terminal will be removed, and the glass-enclosed area known as National Hall will be restricted to only those who have gone through security.
On the upper, ticketing level in the main terminal, the airport will put in high transparent dividers and mesh to create a floor-to-ceiling seal to prevent anyone from throwing anything into what will now be a secure area below.
A separate, new regional concourse, which is currently under construction in hopes to eliminate the dreaded buses of Gate 35X, will also be in the single secure area. Terminal A will continue to have the existing, separate security checkpoint.
The airport could change the names or naming structure of the terminals and gates by the time the regional concourse opens in 2021. At Reagan National, the gates are numbered consecutively, with no terminal identifier.