A temporary exit from the main terminal building to Interstate 195 will open this weekend at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
The new exit, a tenth of a mile from the existing one, is the first major traffic shift in a $75 million construction program designed to improve traffic flow and parking at BWI. But BWI officials warn that road changes may be confusing and cause delays at the busy airport.
"Some delays and detours should be expected," said Michael West, associate administrator, planning and engineering for the Maryland Aviation Administration. "If everybody pays attention to the signs and messages, they'll get where they're going. But they should allow some extra time primarily because of the confusion factor."
Ultimately, two major bridges will be constructed to form the final exit onto I-195, the primary access road connecting the airport to Interstate 95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
The two-year construction program was prompted largely by the huge increase in passengers at BWI over the past two years. More than 12.8 million passengers used the state-owned BWI in 1994, an increase of 3 million passengers, or 35.8 percent, over the previous year.
As a result, motorists have experienced parking problems and faced gridlock on roadways in front of the terminal. By extending the upper-and lower-level roadways, the construction program will provide more curb space to pick up and drop off passengers. In addition, a fifth traffic lane will be added on the lower level.
Those roadway projects are designed to accommodate passengers using the new international terminal building, known as Pier F, adjacent to the main terminal. Construction of F is scheduled to begin this summer.
In addition, a 3,200-space expansion of the garage across from the terminal also will begin this summer. Short-term parking is considered the most pressing parking problem at the airport.
The first phase of the overall construction program began last fall with the widening of Elm Road, which is often used by motorists to reach the terminal from Route 170. As construction continues, no through traffic toward the terminal will be allowed on Elm Road, beginning this Saturday.
Only local traffic, such as motorists going to the Sheraton Hotel or the Maryland Department of Transportation, will be allowed to use Elm Road going toward the terminal. Airport officials said detour signs will direct drivers to I-195 instead.
Elm Road is being relocated to the south to make way for a Light Rail spur from Linthicum to BWI by 1997. In addition, it is being widened to four lanes with a middle turn lane.
Because of the Elm Road changes and the continuing construction on Interstate 97, BWI officials are encouraging motorists to use routes other than I-97 to the airport.