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On Dulles Airport's concourse route, 'C' stands for 'calorie-burning'

By John Kelly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 19, 2011; 6:43 PM

What's up with the "temporary" nature of the C/D concourses at Dulles International Airport? My question stems from the fact that the "C Gates" stop on the new AeroTrain is nowhere near the C Concourse. After a bit of research, I learned that the current C/D concourses are temporary and have been for 25 years. So, we are likely to have this "temporary" situation for another 20 years.

Is there some contention between the airports authority and United, the concourse tenant? And wouldn't it make sense to build a new concourse, instead of a "train to nowhere"?

- Roger Wilson,

Falls Church

Just think how healthy we all would be if, when taking public transportation, we went 1,000 feet beyond our destination and then hoofed it back. That's the case at Dulles. That's because the C Gates AeroTrain station was built where the C Concourse will go, not where it is now.

Why not build a temporary station? "That would have been very fiscally irresponsible," said airport spokeswoman Tara Hamilton. "We were building for the permanent future of Dulles. That's why we did build the moving walkways to take you back to Concourse C."

Expansion plans at Dulles were thrown for a loop by the Sept. 11 attacks, when airlines were left reeling and the funding picture was cloudy. The plan is to eventually eliminate the mobile lounges that lumber, dinosaur-like, across the Dulles tarmac, but there is no timetable as yet for a permanent Concourse C and D.

Both Hamilton and a United spokesman said there is no dispute about the funding.

"There's not any contention," Hamilton said. "It's just the matter of the best timing. There's a whole budgetary process. We have to determine when the best time is to go to the bond market and sell bonds."

She added: "You basically line up your capital projects and make sure you're getting one before getting another."

While a permanent C/D Concourse hasn't been built in the past 20 years, a lot of other things have, including a fourth runway, a new traffic control tower and the $1.5 billion AeroTrain.

Incidentally, when Dulles opened in 1962, it was the country's first airport built specifically for commercial jet aviation. And, now that Answer Man thinks about it, it was the first in the area to be named after a person from the start - the late Secretary of State John Foster Dulles - as opposed to a retroactively added name, as with Reagan National and Baltimore-Washington International Marshall (which opened in 1950 under the name Friendship International Airport).

I thought one little point was missing from your piece last week on street names in D.C. As I recall, the last state to receive a street name was Washington state, when at long last it was noted that it had been neglected. Washington Avenue was created by renaming Canal Street from Independence Avenue (formerly B Street S) to South Capitol Street.

While I think that was an appropriate honor, Canal Street did remind newcomers that there once was a canal from the Potomac River to the Anacostia River via Constitution Avenue (formerly B Street N).

- Jim Churchill,

Alexandria

Indeed. Washington may have been the 42nd state to join the Union, but it was the 50th when it came to getting its name on a District of Columbia street sign. That happened on Nov. 16, 1989, after two years of lobbying by a retired Coast Guard captain from the Evergreen State named C.S. Wetherell. His son, Rod, lived in Virginia and, while working in the District for a road-paving contractor, he noticed a distinct absence of "Washington Avenue." Dad was not happy.

"This, our Centennial Year, is the time to change our second class status to the same first class status the other 49 states enjoy," Wetherell wrote to lawmaker Sen. Brock Adams (D-Wash.).

"After 100 years, we think that [Washington, D.C.] should have a Washington Avenue," Adams said.

Historians weren't sure why Washington had been neglected, though it may have been to avoid confusion with things named after the first president - such as Washington Circle - as opposed to something named after something named after the first president.

The four-block stretch of Canal Street was chosen because it is diagonal - like other state avenues - and because no houses or commercial buildings faced it and, therefore, no street addresses would have to be changed.

Oh, and last week Answer Man cited "Columbia Avenue." There is no such beast in the District. He meant Columbia Road.

Send your questions about the Washington area to answerman@washpost.com.

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