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BWI to review impact of proposed taxiway, terminal improvements

A Southwest plane uses a runway in February 2014 at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.(The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

A Southwest plane uses a runway in February 2014 at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.(The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is beginning a process that could lead to major upgrades.

A public workshop regarding the environmental assessment of future improvements at the airport is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday at the Maryland Aviation Administration offices at 991 Corporate Blvd. in Linthicum. The process reviews any possible impact that projects at the airport could have on the surrounding environment.

“The federal [environmental assessment] process is the first, preliminary step in a long process to implement the proposed improvements,” Jonathan Dean, a spokesman for the airport wrote in an email.

The environmental assessment process is expected to last through late 2017.

Proposed upgrades at the airport involve terminal improvements; taxiway improvements; expanded aircraft firefighting facilities; terminal roadway upgrades; and additional aircraft maintenance facilities.

According to Dean, the timeline for the proposed projects would be before 2020. But he said it’s unknown if all of the projects will actually happen. There’s also not a cost estimate for the various improvements.

“The proposed projects would help BWI meet various [Federal Aviation Administration] criteria, enhance airfield efficiency, accommodate passenger demand, and improve customer service,” Dean wrote.

The airport has been experiencing strong growth in passenger traffic recently.

In 2015, the airport set a new record for commercial passenger travel as 23.8 million passengers flew from BWI. That represented a 6.8 percent increase from the year before. The previous annual record was set in 2012.

Much of the passenger growth at BWI can be attributed to more international passenger traffic. Last year international passenger traffic reached more than 1.1 million — the first time more than 1 million international passengers were recorded at the airport.

This year also got off to a strong start with the airport setting new monthly passenger records in January, February, March and April. BWI has also continued to add routes that will bolster passenger numbers. This year alone WOW Air, Southwest Airlines and Spirit Airlines added routes to new destinations from the airport. British Airways also added service from Heathrow Airport in England on the airline’s new Boeing 787 Dreamliner this summer.

Lifestyle website Thrillist recently ranked the airport atop its “10 Most Surprisingly Great Airports in America.” The list touted the airport’s proximity to both Baltimore and the District of Columbia, its rankings for check-in and security lines as well as the variety of options for killing time in between flights.

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