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Plan for 14-gate Dulles concourse gets boost from infrastructure law

The airport secured $49.6 million from the bipartisan infrastructure law that will help pay for construction of a new concourse

An artist's rendering of the 14-gate concourse planned for Washington Dulles International Airport. (Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority)
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Dulles International Airport secured $49.6 million to help pay for construction of a new 14-gate commuter concourse, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Thursday.

The funding is part of the Airport Terminal Program, one of three aviation programs created by the bipartisan infrastructure law. The program provides $1 billion in grants annually over five years to be used for airport terminals.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which operates Dulles, said in a statement the grant is critical for the airport’s growth.

“This project will be the first step in upgrading aging facilities at the airport to enhance customer service and meet evolving infrastructure needs,” the authority said.

The $49.6 million is a fraction of the $230 million MWAA sought to help pay for the project, but officials noted there was significant competition for that money. Dulles can apply for additional funding in the future.

MWAA announced plans in late March to build the new concourse and said it would seek funding through the infrastructure law to offset the project’s estimated $500 million to $800 million cost.

Dulles International unveils plans for new commuter concourse

“This transformative federal funding will upgrade the passenger experience for those traveling around our region and support the continued success and growth of Dulles Airport, which is integral to Northern Virginia’s local economy,” Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), whose district includes the airport, said in a statement.

According to Airports Council International — North America (ACI-NA), the FAA received more than 650 applications from 532 airports for projects totaling more than $14 billion. Ultimately, 85 airports received grants.

Kevin M. Burke, ACI-NA’s chief executive, said the number of applications illustrates that terminal projects are airports’ most significant infrastructure need.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a tweet the government’s investment will help to make flying easier.

Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), chair of the House aviation subcommittee, said the money for airport terminals is significant because FAA funding has historically gone to runways, traffic-control towers and other infrastructure needs.

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For Dulles, the new concourse and other planned improvements would be the most significant upgrades in more than a decade. The last major expansion at Dulles was a $3.4 billion package of projects that expanded the main terminal and added the automated AeroTrain system, a fourth runway, a new control tower and other elements.

The proposed concourse would be built above an existing AeroTrain stop and eliminate the need for passengers to walk long distances or take a shuttle to their gates.

Passengers who fly out of Concourse A use ground-level outdoor covered walkways to board flights. In the new concourse, those gates would be replaced with jet bridges in a 400,000-square-foot building with other amenities, including a pet-relief area, new restrooms, concessions and larger seating areas.

Airport officials already have completed federally required environmental studies. The evaluations required by the National Environmental Policy Act are designed to ensure that agencies have evaluated the environmental, social and economic effects of a project.

In a joint statement, Virginia Sens. Mark R. Warner (D) and Tim Kaine (D) stressed the importance of investing in airport infrastructure.

“We are glad to see continued, meaningful investment in the Commonwealth’s infrastructure thanks to the bipartisan infrastructure law that will make travel through our airports easier and more accessible,” the lawmakers said.

The airports authority completed a $1 billion package of upgrades at Reagan National Airport last year, which included a 14-gate concourse to replace the infamous Gate 35X that required travelers to be bussed to their aircraft.