- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Washington Dulles International Airport has opened a new passenger walkway, giving people an alternative to the mobile lounges that have been used since the airport opened in 1962 to shuttle passengers from the terminal to the concourses.

“This is about an alternative. We’re giving the customer the ability to be in control of their own time,” said James E. Bennett, president and chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which manages Dulles and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports.

On the cusp of the busy holiday travel season, airport officials yesterday took a ceremonial stroll through the new 1,000-foot-long passageway connecting the main terminal at Dulles to Concourse B.

The $81 million passageway — which opened Friday — includes a pair of moving walkways, like flat escalators, to cart people along while they stand still.

Construction of the passenger walkway is among the most significant projects completed as part of a $3 billion plan that includes building an underground train that will encircle the airport, adding a runway and building a new air-traffic-control tower. Two parking garages that provide 8,500 spaces have been built as part of the vast renovation.

The airport’s 49 mobile lounges still will shuttle passengers from the terminal to each concourse. But airport officials will begin running the lounges to Concourse B less frequently. They will make the trip every 20 minutes instead of every five minutes. Aeroflot, AirTran, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Northwest Airlines, US Airways and Virgin Atlantic use Concourse B.

“We won’t eliminate the mobile lounges, but the overall development program will make them a secondary way to get back and forth,” said Mr. Bennett, seated at a table in Concourse B.

Some passengers used the new passenger walkway reluctantly.

“I’m exhausted,” said David Wiszowaty, a 57-year old who stopped to lean against a desk at the end of his trek through the tunnel.

The mobile lounge temporarily — and inexplicably — stopped running to Concourse B at noon yesterday, forcing Mr. Wiszowaty to walk to catch his US Airways flight to Charlotte, N.C.

But a neurological disorder causes him to limp. Even though he used the mobile walkways, he walked more than he would have had the people mover been running as scheduled.

“For a handicapped person, this is not a good option whatsoever,” he said.

The $3 billion project to improve Dulles won’t be finished until 2009 and is in response to the ever-growing crowds at the airport. Traffic at Dulles increased 20 percent from 16.9 million passengers to 20.3 million in the 12 months that ended in September.

Contractors began work on the walkway in 1999.

They moved 78,500 cubic yards of dirt while carving out a 42-foot-wide tunnel. The passage sits 25 feet beneath a taxiway, on which planes weighing up to 700,000 pounds cruise back and forth.

“It really was a straightforward project,” said Frank D. Holly Jr., vice president for engineering at the airport authority.

Rather than bore through the earth with a traditional tunneling device, workers used machinery to claw through the soil. They removed it and deposited in on the southern grounds of the airport property.

“We’re building a mountain down there,” Mr. Holly said.

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