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ArlingtonTransportationAirport-terminal project inches ever closer to final completion

Airport-terminal project inches ever closer to final completion

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It was nearly a year ago – April 20, 2021 – that the first arriving flight taxied into the new 14-gate regional-jet concourse at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

And although the construction project is nearly complete, there are still a few items on the to-do list until it is finally at the finish line.

“Very minor touch-up and punch-list items remain,” said Tom Beatty, vice president of engineering for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, speaking to the authority’s board members on March 16.

All told, $351 million has been spent of the $360 million budgeted.

The 225,000-square-foot terminal was designed to provide a better experience for travelers using regional jets carrying passengers on behalf of American Airlines, the dominant carrier at the airport. Previously, passengers had to be bused to use what some passengers (and authority leaders) referred to as “the dreaded Gate 35X,” where passengers on regional-jet flights were herded into buses that drove out to parked planes.

The pandemic proved oddly helpful to the building effort – with passenger counts at the airport way down (but recovering), construction moved quickly and the soft opening was conducted without the stress of an immediately packed facility.

(That inaugural flight, for those who like to tie up loose ends, was a CRJ700 jet, operated for American by PSA Airlines, that spent 74 minutes in the air covering the 318 miles from Albany, N.Y. In what perhaps is a good sign, it arrived 25 minutes early.)

The terminal has seating for 850 passengers plus 14,000 square feet of concession areas. There also are public restrooms, moving walkways, an indoor pet-relief area and new baggage-handling system. It had been on the drawing board since 2015.

While the airports authority’s work is almost done, construction continues on an American Airlines Admirals Club, which is set to open later this summer and is the responsibility of the airline.

The regional-jet terminal pier was one facet of “Project Journey,” the largest and most expensive capital effort at Reagan National since new terminals opened in 1997. Another part of the overall effort – moving security screening to the front of the airport allowing for the various terminals to connect with one another – is mostly finished, with $252 million of the $295 million budget expended, Beatty said.

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