Underground Passenger Screening Areas Open at Dulles

By Sholnn Freeman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dulles International Airport opened an underground level Tuesday dedicated to passenger security screening in an effort to eliminate the long and twisting lines that have frustrated travelers for years.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority constructed a 121,700-square-foot security mezzanine level that houses two checkpoints staffed by the Transportation Security Administration. The new level is underneath the baggage claim area, on the back side of the main building. Passengers are carried there by a series of new escalators throughout the terminal.

The new security areas are at opposite ends of the terminal. They have space for 32 security lanes, compared with 21 under the previous arrangement. Passengers will probably notice the relative spaciousness of the new rooms, which feature skylights and high ceilings. The old lanes, overcrowded and slow, were a constant source of irritation to passengers.

Traveler Brian Hargreaves of Chantilly said the airport seemed nicer now that the lobby wasn't jammed with passengers. "I've been here when lines have taken up the whole upstairs," he said.

Moving the security area has opened up sweeping views of the airfield previously blocked in the Eero Saarinen-designed terminal. Early on, airport officials said an aim of the renovation project was to restore the airiness and dignity of the original architecture.

The expansion is part of the capital construction program that has added more than $3 billion in improvement to Dulles since 2000. The efforts have included parking garages, a traffic control tower and, just last year, the airport's fourth runway.

The airports authority spent $395 million simultaneously constructing the mezzanine level and the platform for the AeroTrain, a spokesman said. The train system is scheduled to open by the end of the year.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company