A rise in traffic at Reagan National Airport in the past decade has created infrastructural strain. LEONEL DE VELEZ/THE HOYA
A rise in traffic at Reagan National Airport in the past decade has created infrastructural strain.
LEONEL DE VELEZ/THE HOYA

Getting home for the holidays may become progressively more challenging for students as Reagan National Airport struggles to cope with increased traffic.

The airport, located between the Potomac River and Arlington County just over five miles from campus, has long been a destination airport for travelers coming into D.C. The convenience of its relatively urban location also means that, unlike more spacious suburban airports such as Dulles Airport, Reagan was never designed to be a major airline hub because of space constraints.

However, that is exactly what Reagan has become. In 2011, 18.8 million airline passengers passed through Reagan, a 22 percent increase over the 15.4 million seen in 2002. This increase has been felt most severely in security lines, baggage claim areas and bottlenecks that develop for connecting flights, according to Rob Yingling, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

Yingling said that the airport has faced increased strain in recent years because Congress can use legislation to mandate that it accept additional flights. Most recently, Congress voted to pass the FAA Modernization and Reform Act dated Feb. 1, 2012, which ordered the airport to accept 16 more flights within 90 days in an effort to increase competition and travel options for passengers.

“We do our best to accommodate the new flights, but our main concern is that Reagan National is running out of room to grow,” Yingling said.

Nonetheless, Yingling said that the authority has planned changes to alleviate traffic, including the addition of security-screening lanes at two new checkpoints, a new outbound baggage building for Terminal A and the creation of 1,400 new parking spaces.

While these solutions address immediate concerns, the airport will eventually have to contend with larger issues — the foremost being that it lacks the necessary space to expand.

Yingling said that future plans for the airport may include revamping parking facilities, creating new passenger corridors or replacing a terminal.

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