Washington Dulles International Airport, abbreviated as IAD, is located in Loudoun and Fairfax counties in Virginia, about 26 miles west of downtown Washington, D.C. One of three airports to serve the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area (along with Washington National Airport in Arlington County, Virginia, and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in Anne Arundel County, Maryland), Dulles is the region’s major international airport, handling nearly all of its international passenger traffic. It’s also the busiest international airport in the mid-Atlantic region outside of the New York metropolitan area. A hub for United, it sees on average more than 60,000 passengers per day.
Named after John Foster Dulles, President Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, it first opened in 1962—a relative late comer to the field of this country’s international airports. Built on a site selected by Eisenhower, the airport displaced the rural black community of Willard, which was demolished to make way for construction in 1958. The main terminal, designed that same year by Eero Saarinen, is an icon of modernist architecture, though its layout requires passengers, after checking in, to take a people mover (or “mobile lounge”)—to their gates. The unusual system has earned its white, blocky vehicles comparisons (usually affectionate) to the four-legged AT-AT walkers on the ice planet of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. Though rather far from downtown Washington, D.C., the airport’s usage has stayed in step with the rapid growth of the city’s Virginia suburbs.
IAD is served by the Dulles Airport Access Highway, a toll-free and limited-access road that separates airport traffic from local traffic (which is routed onto the Dulles Toll Road). Construction is underway on an extension of the silver line, part of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (or WMATA) Metrorail system, from downtown D.C. to Ashburn, Virginia, with a stop at Dulles along the way. In the meantime, WMATA runs a Metrobus service to and from the Rosslyn and the L’Enfant Plaza Metrorail stops to Dulles.