BWI by night: dust, debris, din of work

URBAN LANDSCAPE

September 22, 1994|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Sun Staff Writer

For the past several months, Baltimore-Washington International Airport has been the architectural equivalent of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

By day, it's a gleaming airline terminal, handling more than 1 million passengers a month.

By night, it's a gritty construction zone, filled with dust, debris and the din of demolition.

The Maryland Aviation Administration and its contractors are racing to finish a variety of construction projects designed to help the terminal handle the growing domestic passenger traffic at BWI, which has increased 40 percent during the first half of 1994.

Some work takes place during the day, behind fenced-off construction areas. But because administrators want to minimize disruption to flight schedules and inconvenience to passengers, other phases of construction inside the terminal are done at night, when the number of flights drops.

At present, some of the messiest work in the main terminal involves the removal of white floor tiles, which are being replaced with carpet.

Contractors are chipping away at the floor with tile-pulverizing // "scrabblers" that use compressed air to break the floor surface into small pieces. To keep dirt and debris from getting into the computers at the passenger check-in counters, they cover the equipment with drop cloths and work inside a tentlike enclosure that can be moved around the terminal.

In place of the tile, they are putting down a smooth, "cementitious" surface that people can walk on until it is 'N carpeted.

By 5 a.m., crews clean up each work area so it's presentable for that day's passengers.

"Some days, we're measuring progress in inches rather than feet and yards," Michael West, associate administrator of the MAA's Office of Planning and Engineering, told a recent meeting of the BWI Airport Commission. "It's not very high-tech. It's low-tech."

Last week, contractors reached a milestone when they "topped off" one of the largest single projects, a $6.3 million observation lounge and "sky-window" that will offer panoramic views of the airfield.

Other work includes:

* A $27.6 million expansion of Terminal C, the first domestic terminal expansion since 1987. Designed by Greiner Inc., it will provide six new gates when complete in the fall of 1995. The project also involves interior renovations for the existing Pier C and the addition of a "mini food court."

Southwest Airlines has signed up for all six gates, and additional ones will be freed up to accommodate Continental Airlines, according to MAA administrator Ted Mathison.

* A $10 million package of terminal "enhancements," including the floor replacement, new lights, indoor plants and a "photo frieze" featuring 194 photographs of Maryland and the region taken by 26 photographers. It will replace the current frieze of airline logos.

* The Chesapeake Garden, a $500,000 park along the curved approach to the terminal.

* A new satellite parking lot for 1,100 cars, near the existing satellite lots on Aaronson Drive. When complete just before Thanksgiving, it will bring to 8,400 the total of satellite parking spaces available for travelers.

* Concessions area renovations. Host/Marriott, operator of the food and beverage concessions at BWI, has already opened several food establishments this year and is working on others. One recent arrival is the Wild Goose Ale House on Pier A, which is affiliated with the Eastern Shore-based Wild Goose Microbrewery and Kaufmann's Restaurant in Gambrills. Host/Marriott is planning a renovation of C. K.'s restaurant and a new Flight Deck Cafe in the observation lounge.

At a recent meeting of the BWI commission, members marveled at how well the work is going.

"The miracle, to me, is that the airport stays in full operation," said commissioner Edward Kremer.

"That's the challenge -- operating with increasing activity," agreed Mr. West.

Name the lounge

The Maryland Aviation Administration is seeking suggestions for a name for the airport's soon-to-open observation area. Besides the 40-foot-high sky-window, it will contain exhibits to help visitors learn more about the world of aviation, including parts of a cut-up Boeing 737. Ideas can be sent to BWI Public Affairs Division, P. O. Box 8766, BWI Airport 21240.

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