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DCA to change its roads, add parking and build a new rental car facility

National Airport is set to get some sweeping changes intended to make it easier to get around, park and rent a car.

DCA’s convenience for Arlington residents is a major selling point but the airport has its downsides, including traffic jams of sometimes epic proportions.

Prompted by such issues, and a projected increase in travelers, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which operates National Airport and Dulles International Airport, has spent several years mulling how to reduce traffic and meet future demand.

It proposes to realign roads and improve signage, while building a new public parking lot. Immediately south would be a new multi-use facility for a rental car center, with more parking and corporate office space.

“The proposed improvements are needed to address congestion along the Airport roadway network that affects safety, while also addressing space constraints for employee and public parking, rental car facilities, and the Airports Authority administrative offices,” a report says.

The proposed new multi-use center and roadway configurations at National Airport (courtesy MWAA)

MWAA proposes changes to several roads and ramps that unfurl from the airport access road connecting drivers to Crystal City and Route 1.

This includes realigning West Entrance Road to “allow for clear, concise wayfinding that would help reduce the need for drivers to make quick decisions and maneuvers in short periods of time,” the report said.

Another change includes widening a ramp for northbound traffic traveling onto the GW Parkway so drivers have more merging distance. Rapid-flashing beacons and other signage would be added to improve safety for those crossing the onramp via the Mount Vernon Trail.

A new pedestrian path from the Mount Vernon Trail to the airport would replace an existing tunnel that will be displaced during the work.

One road would connect to the future public parking lot in what MWAA calls a “connector garage and ground transportation center.” This is sandwiched between existing garages and the future proposed multi-use center. Just south of the building, there will be a new staging area for ride-share cars.

The airports authority projects it will take some nine years to make all these changes. It underscored, however, the need for them in a presentation during a meeting last night (Tuesday).

The litany of issues at DCA in need of addressing (courtesy MWAA)

Despite the Covid-era drop in travel rates, the airports authority says travel is rebounding and passenger rates may exceed pre-2020 levels by this year or next year.

It predicts current public and employee parking will not meet this future demand. Currently, its 8,909 public parking spaces across three facilities and 3,200 employee spaces across several lots are at capacity or hard to access.

The rental car center, meanwhile, is small, “operationally inefficient” and also projected not to meet future demand. By building a new center, with room for corporate offices, MWAA can move out of leased space in Crystal City and into a rent-free facility.

MWAA nixxed two other alternatives before landing on its current proposal. One would have relocated the multi-use center farther south.

One other option would relocate the multi-use center farther south (courtesy MWAA)

Another option would not have included any parking in the multi-use center. MWAA concluded neither would reduce traffic congestion, enhance safety or improve wayfinding.

Another option would slim down the multi-use center (courtesy MWAA)

MWAA says it needs next four years to lay the groundwork for the major construction. This includes making interim roadway improvements and adding a temporary surface parking lot.

Work would start on the proposed road network and multi-use facility after these initial projects wrap up in early 2028. Work on the public parking “connector garage” would begin in 2031.

The entire project could be finished in mid-2032.

Residents can comment on a draft document outlining the environmental impacts of this project through Monday, Aug. 28. A hard copy is available at the Aurora Hills branch of Arlington Public Library at 735 18th Street S.

The assessment evaluates how construction could affect the floodplain within which the project is located.

“Impacts… are expected to be less than significant and the floodplain encroachment would not adversely affect the natural and beneficial values of the floodplain, result in a high probability of loss of human life or result in damages that could be substantial in cost or extent, including the interruption of service or loss of a vital transportation facility,” the Airports Authority website said.

Photos via Google Maps

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