With traffic down in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the agency that oversees Dulles International Airport has decided to defer indefinitely $1.5 billion of a planned $4.1-billion improvement program.

The finance committee of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority voted on April 17 to postpone a new midfield concourse and an underground rail link that was planned to run from the existing terminal to that building, says Tara Hamilton, an airports authority spokesperson.

She says officials wanted "to take into account the impact of Sept. 11, which clearly has affected the number of passengers using both of our airports." For the first two months of this year, passenger volume was down 8%, to 2.3 million, at Dulles.

The effect was more severe at MWAA's other airport, Ronald Reagan Washington National, which was closed for three weeks after Sept. 11. Hamilton says that until March, the number of flights at Reagan National was well below 50% of pre-Sept. 11 levels.

Don Young
(Photo by Office of Rep. Don Young)

Hamilton says the committee did decide to continue with the rest of the $4.1-billion Dulles program. Going forward are projects that will add capacity, including a new, fourth runway.

The panel also approved $371.2 million for construction in calendar 2002. That includes $175 million for three newly added Dulles projects: a $49.7-million rehabilitation of the existing east-west runway; $76.7 million for added capacity in the terminal's basement baggage-handling area to accommodate new baggage-screening equipment; and $33.1 million for a new basement in existing Concourse B, also for the newly required screening equipment.

The full MWAA board will vote on the revised construction plan on May 1.