How the Silver Line extension will change Dulles International Airport

When the Silver Line extension from Dulles International Airport opens Tuesday, it’ll meet the transit system’s goal of having the new transit option not only up and running before holiday travel gets underway, but also with enough time to work out any kinks before trains get flooded with travelers rushing out of town.

But beyond the holidays, the 4 1/2- to 5-minute walk (and that’s if you’re not in a rush) through a tunnel that takes you from the train’s platform under the hourly parking lot to the terminal is expected to mean so much more.

“This has been a vision for Dulles Airport for 70 years,” said Jack Potter, the president and CEO of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, as he rode the Silver Line extension for the first time earlier this month. “We know it’s going to be great for the airport, for our employees, for all of our passengers.”

Right now, it’s expected to take just less than an hour to ride the train from Metro Center to Dulles International Airport. Potter said that means it’ll be easier for passengers flying to and from Dulles to get where they’re going, and it might make jobs at the airport more enticing, because employees will have more commuting options to and from work. And, he said, airlines around the world have already taken notice.

“The international carriers are super excited about it because it’s become an expectation that when you land at an international airport, you have transit to get downtown,” Potter said. “Reagan National, by the way, has the highest use of transit of any airport in America and we know Dulles is going to be second very soon.”

That possibility could help passengers save money on travel in the future, with Potter hinting that he expected to announce new service agreements in 2023.

“We’re now able to reach out to airlines that wouldn’t look at us before, like the low cost international carriers,” he said. “They have an expectation that they’re going to have transit to downtown and transit to the Metro area. Keep in mind, low cost, those people want to travel as reasonably as possible. They’re excited about it and you’re going to see some new service coming our way in the coming months and years.”

With a couple of moving walkways, the tunnel from the train to the airport is simple and convenient (“You can’t get lost,” said Potter) but if you’re traveling with a lot of luggage it might get overwhelming, at least in the early going until everyone figures out the best way to maximize convenience.

“We do have the opportunity for people with baggage to get carts, so we’re looking at where’s an appropriate place to put carts,” said Potter. “Anyone that needs assistance we’ll make sure that we deal with that.”

“We did have a concept a while back that people could check their bags at the station, but we want the demand to drive it,” said Potter. So, while that won’t be an option until it’s clear that it’s wanted or even needed, it has been discussed and could be considered again in the future.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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