Build it and flights will come BWI Airport: International terminal makes airport tantalizing for overseas carriers.

December 06, 1997

ELECTED LEADERS rarely adopt the "build it and they will come" approach. They don't take chances with tax dollars. Yet Maryland's gamble at Baltimore-Washington International Airport -- erecting a $139 million international terminal without any guaranteed tenants -- already has paid off, even before today's opening.

Thanks to the 365,000 square foot addition, BWI is now the northeastern international gateway for U.S. military personnel traveling to Europe. That alone should add 25 percent more international passengers -- 200,000 -- and $50 million to $100 million to the local economy each year.

And since the new terminal is financed largely through a $3-a-ticket surcharge on passengers, the users -- not Maryland taxpayers -- end up paying for the improvements.

Quick, convenient customs and immigration facilities will help speed travelers on their way; restaurants and shops will soothe their time before flights. A light-rail extension that passes through downtown will get the traveler to and from the international terminal cheaply and stress-free. An expanded garage and a direct road link to Interstate 95 also should make a difference.

BWI suffers from a lack of international traffic. The "I" in BWI is more myth than reality. Only 47 regularly scheduled overseas flights leave each week -- less than a quarter of the world business Dulles International handles.

But air travel overseas is expanding rapidly, and BWI's terminal should prove tantalizing to foreign airlines. For many people living in the Baltimore-Washington region, getting to BWI is far preferable to road-congested Dulles. BWI now will have the space to accommodate new overseas carriers, and new passengers.

But what if that expected influx never arrives? No problem. Some of the gates can be converted for use by domestic airlines,

where business is booming. It is a win-win situation for the airport and for Maryland.

An expanded worldwide air capability can only enhance Maryland's appeal to companies looking to relocate. As the world shrinks, corporations think in global terms. The ability to get quickly and easily to international flights becomes essential. BWI could well hit a home run with its international airfield of dreams.

Pub Date: 12/06/97

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