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Plans Unveiled for Pittsburgh Airport Terminal

Monday, September 18, 2017

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On Tuesday (Sept. 12) Allegheny County Airport Authority officials announced that the Pittsburgh International Airport is getting a billion-dollar facelift.

The $1.1 billion overhaul, which includes building a new landside terminal and roads, as well as updated baggage and security, aims to reflect Pittsburgh’s “vibrant, growing tech-focused economy,” according to airport CEO Christina Cassotis.

Images courtesy of Allegheny County Airport Authority

On Tuesday (Sept. 12) Allegheny County Airport Authority officials announced that the Pittsburgh International Airport is getting a billion-dollar facelift.

The current facility, which cost around $900 million to construct, opened in 1992 and was built as a hub for the now-defunct US Airways. At that time, the airport saw as many as 38 million passengers a year. It has steadily decreased since then, however, and current numbers indicate right around 8 million annual passengers.

“This facility was built for an airline that is no longer in business, so it’s time for us in Pittsburgh to build our airport,” Cassotis said.

The Plan

While the authority looked at a few different directions to update the airport—officials had been working on this for more than two years—building a new landside terminal was actually the cheapest option, according to Cassotis.

The current layout features massive landside terminal equipped with elevators, escalators and a tram system that, nearing 30 years old, are approaching costly repairs. The tram itself (an underground train that shuttles people from landside to airside) costs $3 million a year to operate, according Pittsburgh’s CBS affiliate.

The new terminal will be built in between the C and D concourses and attach to the current airside terminal, which will be updated. This will put everything basically on one level, eliminating most escalators and the tram. The “dogleg” ends of the A and B concourses will also be eliminated, leaving the number of gates open at 51, about a dozen more than what’s used today, allowing some leeway for potential growth.

The new, smaller facility is estimated to save $23 million a year in operation and maintenance costs. In addition, Cassotis says the cost per passenger would fall from an average of $12.69 to $9.73.

“It’s a win-win situation for everybody,” said Airport Authority Chairman David Minnotte. “The costs are lower for the airlines, the airport gets a new facility, that will be very efficient and modern. And, finally, this is most important for me, the people of Pittsburgh finally get an airport that is built for them, and not US Air.”

Execution & Cost

The new terminal comes with an estimated price tag of $783.8 million, in addition to the new parking garage ($258.8 million) and new roads ($57.1 million).

No tax dollars will be used for the project, which is one of the main reasons why the authority passed the plan without a public comment period.

"The airlines are paying for this, so it has to work for the airlines," Cassotis said. "In terms of whether we keep the facility or how many gates, that really needs to be left to us and the airlines. Now that we've made a decision on what the footprint will be, we can go to the community and say, 'What kind of features should be here? What else could we include?'"

The project will be paid for with bonds and grants, along with revenue of Marcellus shale gas drilling, parking and airport shops. By the time construction is slated to begin in 2019, the airport will have paid off 75 percent of its debt from the previous construction, which will free it up to borrow more money should it need to.

The new terminal, will be built in between the C and concourses and attach to the current airside terminal, which will be updated.

Although construction specifics are not yet known, the authority is working with Chicago-based consultant Ricondo & Associates Inc. to develop what it calls “the master plan.”

Officials estimate that more than 6,000 temporary design and construction jobs will be created, along with 4,500 “spin-off” jobs to support the purchases of supplies and services as well as spending wages earned by the workers.

The project is slated for completion in 2023.

What About the Rest?

The fate of the current landside terminal remains unclear. Though the authority says it has set aside the estimated $20 million it would need to demolish the building, it’s definitely open to selling to developers.

Some officials have already brought up Pittsburgh’s pending bid for Amazon’s second headquarters, a proposal for which will be submitted next month. One reason why Pittsburgh would get passed over for the bid: no direct flights to Seattle. That would likely be remedied with the new facility.

"I think this is the kind of forward-thinking initiative Amazon will be looking for," said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. "This announcement today, a month before we're going to be submitting our proposal, is perfectly aligned with what we'd like to see."


Tagged categories: Airports; Commercial Construction; Construction; Maintenance + Renovation; North America; Renovation

Comment from Jesse Melton, (9/18/2017, 8:42 AM)

No tax dollars used vs selling and leveraging public property to get the money seems like a really fine line to walk.

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