Denver Airport Expansion Well Under Way (Navigating Through The Construction)

Back in 1995, the existing Denver International Airport opened for business.  A whopping 20+ miles from downtown Denver, it was humongous and the only new major airport built from the ground up in the US in decades.  While there were bumps and bruises, they did a lot of things right when they built it.  Wide  (and long) concourses, making it easy to navigate to your plane.  Plenty of moving walkways to get you there quickly.  I remember flying through there a few years after it opened and thinking how big it was.

One of the major details missing was a rail transportation link to downtown.  You’ll generally only experience traffic to and from the airport briefly during the rush hours, but it’s still a solid 30-minute ride to the heart of downtown, making for an expensive taxi. I don’t know how to research the percentage of rental cars per arriving passenger, but I’ve got to think that ratio is quite high at DIA.

A few years ago the push for rail gained momentum and now the addition of a rail link to downtown is in full effect.  Plans are for a sizable Westin to be built directly adjacent to the airport (something else DIA is missing, an airport hotel you can walk to).  After traveling to Denver twice a month for the past two years, I can finally see large visible signs of construction, some of which will start to delay arriving and departing passengers.

As you can see, the roads around the airport are being demolished to make way for the plaza and rail connection as well as the hotel.

Denver Airport


Denver Airport

They’ve made a lot of progress on the hole for the hotel and rail line as well.

Denver Airport

Still, it’s a long ways from completed.  Completion is estimated for 2016, but I don’t recall too many projects of this size that finished on time (or under budget).

There are some traffic pattern changes over the past couple of months that make it tougher to access the airport.  I’ve found it’s easier to head to the Terminal West side of the airport regardless of the airline you’re flying on.  Additionally, the quickest way in is actually the arrivals level garage.  Follow the detour signs to the arrivals level and take the escalator upstairs (there’s parking adjacent as well), and this will shave a few minutes off your trip.  Of course, this assumes you’re not checking bags.  If you are and want to do it curbside, then you have to loop all the way around the airport and come in the exit of the departures level.  Much easier to carry-on and print your boarding pass ahead of time, then you never need to go up to the ticketing level.

As always, the Terminal A security lines are the shortest of the 3 security areas, with the security entrance on the other end of the building (where United Airlines resides) the longest.

If you’re picking up a rental car, plan an extra 10 minutes or so to get to the rental facility.  The rental car shuttles are forced to do a U-turn on the Terminal West side and the traffic backs up pretty quickly.  It’s not much different on the East side and most of the buses hit the East side first anyway.


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