Pittsburgh Airport reveals plan for overhaul

Marissa Wiesenbach, North Campus Writer

Pittsburgh has unveiled a $1.1 billion renovation plan that will modernize the city’s airport and provide it with a newly-constructed 51-gate passenger terminal.

According to USA Today, Pittsburgh officials state that the new terminal will speed fliers’ trips through the airport by consolidating check-in, ticketing, security, and baggage claim “into one connected facility.”

This remodeling plan set to take place at the airport will create a 635,000 square-foot facility that consolidates current airport and airline operations.

In addition, it will offer improved passenger and public spaces, such as ticketing, baggage claim, security checkpoint, a meet-and-greet area, and various retail stores and concession options. This two-story passenger terminal was designed by Luis Vidal. Construction of this new airport building may begin as early as 2019 and be completed by 2023.

This facility to be constructed at Pittsburgh International will feature a wave-like roof meant to mimic the rolling hills of the region.

Pittsburgh International Airport is a civil-military international airport located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is in Findlay and Moon townships of Allegheny County, and it is approximately 20 miles west of downtown Pittsburgh.

At this time, the Pittsburgh airport uses a people-mover tram to move passengers amongst gate areas, check-in, baggage claim, security, and the airport’s exit. However, this tram will no longer be needed after the construction of the new passenger terminal is complete.

According to USA Today, the modernized passenger terminal will replace the existing “landslide” building, and construction of this facility will occur in an empty area that currently exists between the gate areas and the airport’s entrance.

In the new terminal, departing passengers will migrate to the upper level of the facility, and arriving passengers will move through the lower level as they report to baggage claim and exit the airport.

Images of this new plan were released, but the plan will continue to be refined throughout the next phase of the project, which is expected to run through summer 2019.

According to PIT TRANSFORMED (a website pertaining to the transformation of Pittsburgh International Airport), the modernization plan includes new parking and transportation options for those visiting the airport. Specifically, a multi-level parking garage and a dedicated ground transportation center will be constructed.

In addition, a new roadway surrounding the airport will be put in place to service the new terminal.
According to USA Today, the construction of this new passenger terminal is just one part of a major makeover for the airport, which was revolutionary when it opened in 1992. Currently, the size and design of the airport no longer serves the latest needs of the city.

USA Today states that the current design of Pittsburgh International Airport was built almost exclusively to specifications called for by US Airways – a major American airline that stopped operating independently in 2015.

In the past, US Airways used Pittsburgh as a major connecting hub, and the airport was one of the busiest, offering numerous international and domestic flights daily.

Due to specifications called for by US Airways, the airport currently embodies four passenger concourses laid out in an “X-shape”, which allows connecting fliers to walk quickly between gates regardless of which concourse they arrive to and depart from.

Presently, the airport is serving fewer passengers than when the facility opened in 1992. In fact, USA Today states that only 39 of the 75 gates were being used for fliers in 2017.

Ultimately, the airport has been facing difficult times. In recent years, officials shut down unused parts of the airport, such as the ends of some concourses, to turn off the utilities and to save money.
“The airport was built 25 years ago for an application that is no longer valid. Pittsburgh is no longer a large hub airport,” said Mike Boyd, a Colorado based airline industry consultant with The Boyd Group, to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Because the passenger count at Pittsburgh International has dwindled significantly in recent years, the airport hopes to transition from a large hub to a more consolidated airport that is focused on “local” traffic. Specifically, airport officials hope to aim their attention at passengers flying to or from the city of Pittsburgh itself.

Recently, Pittsburgh International has benefited from the ambitious efforts of its new CEO, Christina Cassotis. As the leader of the airport, Cassotis hopes to revive Pittsburgh International by redeveloping the airport.

Cassotis told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “We want to build a Pittsburgh airport. We’ve seen what a US Airways airport looks like.”
The Allegheny County Airport Authority states that no local tax dollars will be used to fund the construction of a new passenger terminal, and the landing fees for airlines using the airport will not increase.

Instead, Cassotis told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “bond money will be used to finance most of the project costs. Revenue from airport parking, concessions and retail sales also will be used, along with revenue from Consol Energy’s Marcellus shale gas drilling operations on airport land.”

After construction of the new passenger terminal is complete, the existing terminal will be available for redevelopment. However, if no one chooses to bid on the facility it will likely be demolished.