By Kate Alexander
WASHINGTON – Baltimore/Washington International Airport received $38 million in federal funding Wednesday for capital projects that are intended to foster growth at the facility, already on pace to become the region’s busiest airport.
The Federal Aviation Administration approved funding for runway and taxiway improvements that are part of a five-year, $1.3 billion development project set to begin this spring.
The renovation will also include the addition of improved parking facilities, new concourses and pedestrian bridges, moving sidewalks, widened roads, and a monorail-style system connecting the airport, parking garages and the Amtrak/MARC station.
While the federal funding represents only a fraction of the project’s total cost, BWI spokesman John White said the FAA commitment was a critical first step toward moving forward on this project, the most aggressive renovation in the airport’s 50-year history.
The $38 million will be spread over the life of the project, a multiyear commitment that state officials said was highly unusual for the FAA.
“It shows their support for the airport and the need to go through with the expansion,” said Erin Henson, a Maryland Department of Transportation spokeswoman.
The state will pick up 41 percent of the total costs of the project with the rest covered by charges to passengers and customers, such as the rental car companies that will get a new facility in the renovation.
Gov. Parris Glendening has said this renovation is the first step toward making BWI an “intermodal transportation center,” linking all forms of transportation to the airport over the next 10 to 20 years.
And the improvements are coming none too soon.
Last year marked the seventh year of growth for the airport, as commercial airline travel there increased by 12.4 percent, Glendening said Monday. Both international and domestic traffic grew in 2000 and that growth is expected to continue with the recent addition of two new international carriers.
BWI officials boasted Monday that, if current trends continue, traffic at BWI could surpass Northern Virginia’s Dulles International Airport as the region’s busiest airport within the year.