Pedestrian skywalk opens today at BWI

Span connecting terminal to garage is latest upgrade in $1.8 billion expansion

2nd skywalk at BWI opens as expansion continues

May 28, 2004|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

A new covered skywalk connecting Baltimore-Washington International Airport's main terminal to the hourly parking garage opens today - just in time for the Memorial Day holiday.

The skywalk, the second climate-controlled span over the arrival and departure road lanes, has moving sidewalks and a view of much of the continuing, $1.8 billion expansion program at the airport. BWI is adding more lanes for traffic, an upgraded terminal, more parking and a new concourse for Southwest Airlines, the airport's main carrier.

"This new skywalk will provide our customers with a quick, convenient and safe way of moving from the hourly garage to the terminal," said Paul J. Wiedefeld, executive director of the Maryland Aviation Administration, which oversees the airport. "At BWI, we are dedicating the critical resources to manage the current and projected growth of the airport. The skywalk is the next step in the improvement of BWI for the traveling public."

Much of the construction work is still under way, while some projects, such as the additional parking, are mostly completed. The Southwest concourse, with its own skywalk to the garage, is scheduled for completion next year. Roadwork is expected to wrap up by the end of 2006.

About a dozen workers for Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., the airport's general contractor, and its subcontractors cleaned the newest skywalk and stairs to the main terminal yesterday.

Airport officials are hoping the improved access to the hourly garage will prompt more people picking up travelers to use the garage - which is free for the first hour - rather than looping around the airport or blocking traffic by sitting in front of the terminal in their cars.

Looking at the skywalk and road construction just beyond was Linda Greene, executive director of the BWI Business Partnership Inc., an economic and transportation management association.

"You can see all the work done on the roads, and what we're going through now is really going to be beneficial in the future," she said.

In the 1980s, she noted, no more than 3 million or 4 million passengers a year traveled through BWI; last year, the number of travelers was nearly 20 million.

The skywalk will come on line today, when about 70,000 travelers are expected to pass through the airport. BWI generally averages about 50,000 to 55,000 travelers a day.

For May, the airport expects 1.9 million passengers, which would be a 9 percent increase over May 2003, according to Jonathan Dean, an airport spokesman.

Memorial Day is a heavily traveled holiday, with 443,000 travelers forecast for a seven-day period. During November last year, an estimated 640,000-plus travelers moved though BWI over an 11-day travel period that began the Friday before Thanksgiving and ended the Monday after. That was an 8 percent increase over the previous year.

Over a 12-day travel period around the Christmas and New Years holidays, BWI estimated it handled nearly 711,000 passengers, up almost 10 percent from the year before.

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