December 09, 1992

The Baltimore-Washington International Airport vicinity is where the two metropolises merge. This area formerly known for truck farming is rapidly being transformed into a growth dynamo of high-technology plants, warehouse facilities and bedroom communities. Anyone doubting what lies in the future ought to spend some time in places like Glen Burnie and Odenton. Despite the recession, commercial and residential building continues unabated.

The future roles of many of the key players in that corridor are being redrawn. Three of them -- Westinghouse, the National Security Agency and the Fort Meade Army base -- are all trying to adjust to changed priorities and needs of life after the Cold War. Whatever their new roles, the BWI employment magnet is likely to continue its pull. Even if some of the old players are downsizing, new ones are moving in. An apt example is the new high-tech traffic management center the state is building near the airport to handle Maryland's future traffic congestion and road safety needs.

As open space between the Baltimore and Washington beltways disappears, BWI Airport becomes an increasingly vital part of the corridor's -- if not all Central Maryland's -- economic engine. Its 575 daily commercial flights carry an annual passenger load of more than 9 million, three times more than two decades ago. The volume of air cargo has grown even more.

As Washington's National Airport has reached its limits and ceased to be a terminal for international flights, BWI has increasingly begun serving the nation's capital market. The airport's proximity to nearby residential communities is somewhat problematic, of course. Neighbors, understandably, do not like the noise of take-offs and landings. Yet the interests of Maryland demand that the airport be kept up-to-date and competitive.

State aviation authorities are now in the final stages of approving a $12.2 million project that would extend one of BWI's runways by 1,000 feet to 10,502 feet so that the airport could better handle non-stop flights to the Far East, Middle East and South America. The expansion proposal minimizes adverse impacts on nearby neighborhoods and does not envision increased airport capacity. It is an economic development initiative that is needed to assure Maryland's future well-being.

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