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Improvements at Reagan National win applause from leaders

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Travelers won’t be using the new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport for another few weeks, but regional and state leaders gathered Oct. 13 to celebrate a number of milestones at the airport’s billion-dollar “Project Journey” capital-development effort.

“We thank our customers for their patience over the past four years as construction took shape, and are exceedingly grateful to everyone who helped make this project a success,” said Jack Potter, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, during the ceremony.

Project Journey “is helping us create the airport of the future,” Potter said.

Gov. Northam and FAA administrator Steve Dickson were among the roughly 200 people on hand for the event.

“The expansion and innovation happening here will keep our country safely moving and growing,” Dickson said. “Airports are the economic engines for communities across the country.”

As part of the effort, two new security-checkpoint areas were built between the airport’s Metrorail station and Terminal B/C, providing access to 85 percent of the total gates at the airport.

The new arrangement will put more of the airport terminal beyond security, giving passengers greater opportunities to visit other parts of the airport – including shops and restaurants – and also making connecting flights between concourses much easier and more efficient than had been the case.

The new checkpoint’s 23 lanes are slated to open on or about Nov. 9. They “will enable our Transportation Security Officers to screen a larger number of passengers more efficiently,” said TSA administrator David Pekoske.

Reagan National has been one of the most hard-hit airports across the nation by the COVID pandemic, with passenger counts struggling to return to two-thirds of pre-COVID numbers. But service to the airport is expected to be boosted starting next month, as airlines will be required to once again use all their coveted take-off and landing “slots” or risk losing them.

“We are expecting a 35-percent increase in flight capacity starting in November, as a result of the Federal Aviation Administration’s domestic slot waivers expiring, which will aid the airport in approaching pre-pandemic holiday traffic levels,” Potter said.

“Project Journey” represents the airport’s most significant expansion effort since the construction of Terminals B/C in the 1990s. A key component includes the 225,000-square-foot, 14-gate concourse that began serving passengers in April.

The new concourse replaced Gate 35X, which for years required passengers to take buses to and from outdoor boarding areas because of limited gate space in the terminal.

While the pandemic initially caused challenges in moving the Project Journey effort forward, the lower passenger counts over the past 18 months actually allowed work to proceed more expeditiously and some projects to be completed ahead of schedule.

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