Work has begun on a $100 million upgrade of the oldest portion of BWI Marshall Airport to streamline security screening by allowing passengers to move among the three busiest concourses without having to pass through security a second time.
Airport officials say widening Concourse C — in the 60-year-old central section of what was once Friendship International Airport — will allow them to expand the number of security lines from six to nine. It also will permit the replacement of magnetic-resonance screening machines with larger advanced imaging devices like the ones already used on concourses A and B.
The project also will add a moving walkway on the airfield side of the terminal that will connect the 26 gates at concourses A and B used by Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways with the 14 gates at Concourse C.
In addition, Concourse C will be given the level of amenities found at the A and B concourses in approximately 8,500 square feet of new food and retail space.
The project will be Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport's most ambitious since the $288 million Southwest terminal opened in 2005, airport officials say. It will be paid for with revenue from ticket surcharges, as well as gate and landing fees paid by the airlines.
For the past two years, BWI has broken passenger records. In 2011, 22.39 million ticket holders passed through the gates — a 2.1 percent increase. The trend is continuing this year: In the first quarter, more than 4.9 million passengers used BWI, up 2.6 percent over the same period last year.
Airport officials say initial construction will be completed by next spring and the rest before next year's summer travel season. Disruptions are expected to be minimal, but the observation gallery will be closed until spring 2013 to accommodate construction.