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Tens of millions of dollars were poured into a concourse expansion at BWI Marshall Airport that adds five new gates and features big windows with natural light, charging outlets at every seat and some favorite hometown restaurant vendors.
But it was the restroom that impressed Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
“I’m not kidding that they set a new bar for airports across the country,” the Republican governor said Monday after touring the new section of Concourse A at the airport in Linthicum.
The bathrooms are roomy, with more privacy for travelers and plenty of places for them to stash their stuff while using the facilities. Each stall has a full door, a spot to slide a roller bag into, a shelf and plenty of hooks.
The sinks feature a rare trifecta of hands-free faucets, soap dispensers and paper towel dispensers.
“Most airport bathrooms were built when people used to check their luggage and now everyone’s carrying on bags, so you go in there with a lot of bags,” Hogan said. “Now you have places, little cubbies, to place your suitcases and hang your clothes. You’ve got lots more space. Everything’s modern and touchless.”
The spacious bathrooms and the new concourse are part of an effort to make travelers more comfortable and accommodate Southwest Airlines, the airport’s largest tenant.
Vendors in the new concourse include District Market, with snacks and souvenirs; Miss Shirley’s, known for its breakfast options; and R&R Seafood Bar, part of the same group of restaurants as Obrycki’s.
Hogan and other officials cut a giant orange ceremonial ribbon at Miss Shirley’s and another blue ribbon stretched across the concourse as curious travelers made their way past Monday.
The state put $48 million into the 55,000-square-foot concourse project, along with investments from Southwest Airlines as well as Fraport USA, which manages the airport’s shops and eateries.
From start to finish, the Concourse A extension took about 3 1/2 years. But the dramatic drop in flights over the past year during the pandemic allowed the project’s construction phase to move forward more easily, officials said.
Traffic at the airport has been bouncing back as coronavirus cases have dropped and vaccinations have increased.
“This is a sign that the recovery is on its way. BWI Marshall is an important part of that,” said Ricky Smith, the airport’s executive director.
The airport experienced its busiest day since the pandemic reached Maryland when 24,423 passengers went through security screening on May 13.
Eventually, those travelers will get to see the fancy bathrooms in other parts of the airport, too. Plans are in the works to start renovating the other restrooms using the model from Concourse A.