Looking back 25 years to the day Dulles International Airport opened, and looking ahead to its future, officials of the new airports authority yesterday unveiled construction plans to cope with the airport's overwhelming growth.
Dulles will get new roads, taxiways, baggage claim areas and international arrivals area, Linwood Holton, chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, announced at yesterday's anniversary celebration. The authority plans to break ground on the projects in the spring.
When Dulles opened Nov. 17, 1962, President Kennedy said it represented "a distinguished ornament of a great country and a great governmental system." His voice resonated again at Dulles yesterday, on a tape played to a luncheon crowd of about 550, which included many former Federal Aviation Administration officials who had heard the words live a quarter century earlier.
Designed to serve up to 4 million passengers a year, the airport served 11.5 million passengers in the 12 months that ended Sept. 30 -- a crush of people who often found themselves fighting for parking, waiting impatiently for baggage, struggling through customs and elbowing others in the crowded terminal.
The four projects announced yesterday will be among an estimated $100 million in improvements planned for National and Dulles next year, representing the first stage of more than $700 million in construction at the two airports envisioned over the next seven years, Holton said.
Although detailed design and cost estimates must be worked out and bonds must be issued to finance the construction, the outlines of the first projects were described by airport officials as:A new roadway connecting the northern satellite parking and cargo areas directly with the Dulles Access Road, bypassing the main terminal. Currently, most airport traffic is routed by the main terminal, severely congesting the two-level road in front. New taxiways on the airfield that will enable large jets to exit the runways more easily, cutting down on delays that occur as the big aircraft use the existing pathways. An expansion of the ground-level baggage area to include an additional large carousel or two medium-size devices, the first part of a plan to expand the baggage area eventually to cover the entire ground floor. A new international arrivals area at least three times as large as the existing facility. The current area, on the east side of the main terminal, will stay open while the new one is built on the west side.
The authority board and staff have not decided where to begin at National, and they are considering a number of other possible projects for Dulles, said general manager James A. Wilding, who began his career as a civil engineer working on the planning of Dulles.
The authority plans to issue the bonds this winter, and yesterday it selected two firms to serve as auditors, completing its financial team. The auditors are Touche Ross of New York and Bert W. Smith of the District. Only the bond underwriters remain to be chosen.
The growth at Dulles has reflected the feverish economic development in Fairfax and Loudoun counties as well as changes in the airline industry since deregulation in 1978. Since then, increased numbers of airlines have offered more flights out of hubs, or centers of operation where large numbers of flights converge and exchange passengers. Dulles saw its service grow as four airlines established hubs there, two of which have remained.
"This building, I think, symbolizes the aspirations of the United States in the 1950s and 1960s," Kennedy said of the Dulles main terminal, a soaring concrete and glass structure designed by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen.
Another voice from the past, Najeeb Halaby, the FAA chief who presided over the opening day ceremony, advised the authority board yesterday to think of Dulles as more than a surface on which aircraft land and take off.
"Think of it as a place of beauty and inspiration, where you bring clouds to the ground, where the sky meets the land . . . . as a total system of mobility," Halaby said. "Take this wonderful opportunity to keep it with love and beauty."