Christmas, New Year’s airport travel rush starts this weekend

With the Thanksgiving rush down, and Christmas and New Year’s still to go, D.C.-area airport officials are asking flyers to plan ahead for traffic, construction and future airport changes.

The Christmas and New Year’s travel rush is less compressed than Thanksgiving, but the weekend before Christmas is expected to see some of the biggest crowds, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said.

At Reagan National Airport, construction lane closures have changed since Thanksgiving weekend, with only one lane now open for drivers approaching the lower level at Terminal B/C.

Extra police are on hand to help manage traffic, but things have not yet been as bad as expected, construction manager Rich Golinowski said.

On the busy Sunday after Thanksgiving, there were major backups.

“Public parking was not a problem over the holiday due primarily to the continued increase in Uber and Lyft users,” airport manager Paul Malandrino said.

Parking garages no longer fill up, with Uber, Lyft and Via trips at Reagan National up another 8% this Thanksgiving weekend compared to the year before. Already reduced cab trips dropped more than 19%.

“Vehicle traffic on our airport roads was our biggest challenge,” Malandrino said.

The worst backups at both Reagan National and Dulles International Airport started around 3:30 p.m. the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

The backups for drivers approaching Dulles stretched as far back as the Fairfax County Parkway.

Like at Reagan National, the Dulles backups can be tied in part to the significant increases in Uber and Lyft trips, up 25 percent compared to the same period last year. Cab trips at Dulles dropped 12 percent, the Airports Authority said.

Reagan construction runs through 2021

The construction at Reagan National adding to holiday delays is part of work to build new security checkpoint buildings for Terminal B/C above the main roadway.

In January, steel installation during the overnight hours is expected to totally close the lower roadway between midnight and 9 a.m. for several months.

Separate work is also underway at the airport on an additional concourse at the north end of the building that will replace Gate 35X.

The new concourse already has some glass framing panels installed and the steel is expected to be connected to the existing terminal early in the new year

On Wednesday, the Airports Authority announced the brands that will run restaurants, bars and shops in the new buildings.

The largest restaurant space in the new concourse will be a P.F. Chang’s near the new American Airlines Admirals Club.

Other food vendors selected under the airport’s effort to create the right experience for passengers include Founding Farmers, Elevation Burger, Mezeh Mediterranean Grill and Peet’s Coffee.

Several newsstands and shops will be run by W.H. Smith, including a café outside each of the new security checkpoints.

The stores are projected to bring in about $19.7 million in sales in the first year, or $10.68 per passenger.

The new concourse is expected to open in summer 2021. The security checkpoints are now delayed to the end of 2021.

When the new checkpoints open, the area near the current checkpoints will be beyond security.

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