Even though the world is dealing with a horrific pandemic and travel has been discouraged for months, on November 29, a record was set for the number of people who passed through U.S. airports during a single day in 2020. The Transportation Security Administration reported that approximately 1.2 million citizens participated in air travel that Sunday. Holiday travel in December is expected to draw more passengers to airports.
As we await the end of COVID as we know it, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) identifies 3,304 existing public-use airports and six proposed new airports that are expected to drive spending estimates to approximately $43.6 billion for projects that will be launched over the next few years. That’s an increase of $8.5 billion from the last estimate.
A new airport trend became obvious when the Washington State Department of Transportation designated Yakima Air Terminal as a beta test site for electric aircraft. Five other sites also were designated as test sites, and 15 other airports will form the initial network for electric aircraft. If projections are correct, electric and hybrid electric aircraft manufacturers may have at least 20 planes in service soon with more than a dozen more in development. This trend is expected to create dozens of new contracting opportunities at all of the selected sites. But there’s more!
The San Antonio International Airport has benefited from 10 consecutive years of increases in passengers. Discussions were underway to expand the airport significantly until the COVID virus’s spread stopped work on a 20-year draft master plan. Although plans for a new terminal are now on hold, many other projects are pending and city leaders have indicated that airport improvements are will not be halted long.
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport has its major expansion on hold, but that pause could be lifted at any time. Houston’s George Bush International Airport and the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport all have major expansion plans. In other parts of the state, the Abilene City Council is studying plans for expansion and modernization at the Abilene Regional Airport. Planning documents outline upcoming projects with costs of roughly $172 million for taxiway work, runway repair, new hangars, and commercial development.
The Operations Committee at Northwest Arkansas National Airport put a hold on a number of planned projects, but work is expected to resume as soon as airline passenger counts return to pre-pandemic numbers. These projects include construction of a new lobby and baggage claim area, a rental car facility, taxiway and control tower enhancements, and the development of a western concourse. A skybridge construction project that links a parking deck to the second floor of the terminal may begin as early as 2021 as could other related improvements. This work will include new elevators and escalators and a renovated building facade. The budget for upcoming projects is about $31.5 million.
The Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport is accepting public input on its 20-Year Master Plan 2020. Projects outlined in the plan include relocating and expanding the airport’s checkpoints, widening a terminal, expanding concessions and visitor areas, and constructing a cargo building and maintenance hangar. Additionally, the airport needs new hangars for corporate aviation, a truck maneuvering and vehicle parking facility, more aircraft parking positions, a fixed-base operator building, rental car facility expansions, a cell phone lot, an overflow parking lot, and other projects.
A boost of funding for the Winter Haven Regional Airport is anticipated. City officials want to attract private aviation and non-aviation companies to locate on airport property under long-term leases. The 520-acre airport property has three areas suitable for development. The airport’s existing master plan outlines plans to include a hotel onsite.
Recent activity at the Barkley Regional Airport included a ceremonial groundbreaking for a new $42 million passenger terminal. Design work should be completed early in 2021 with construction beginning immediately. The first phase of the project will focus on utility infrastructure and moving an automated weather station. A new access road will be built, and a new aircraft apron will be constructed. Another 400 acres near the airport will be prepared for development.
Washington Regional Airport officials have plans for new hangars. An initial solicitation will be released soon for eight new hangars, but planning documents call for two or four more new hangars after that. The current schedule indicates that the city will accept bids for the first projects in 2021 and begin construction immediately afterwards.
Officials at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport have released a master plan study that outlines anticipated short- and long-term projects. Several options under consideration are:
- Salvaging as much of the existing terminal as possible by replacing, widening, or lengthening existing concourses.
- Improving new and reused terminal areas.
- Constructing a new concourse and terminal parallel to each other and connected by a tunnel.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation recently announced receipt of more than $6.6 million in state and federal funding for projects at five airports. Another $3.3 million in federal funds has also been designated, along with other funding, for the construction of various airport upgrades. The funding will be allocated for parallel taxiway work, apron modifications, culvert rehabilitation, rehabilitation of other aircraft apron pavements, and more.
Airport expansion and rehabilitation projects will be abundant throughout the U.S. over the next decade. Decision-makers realize that America’s transportation infrastructure needs immediate attention and they do not want to jeopardize the country’s economic vitality with costly delays.