- The Allegheny County Airport Authority has delayed the $1.1 billion Pittsburgh International Airport modernization project amid the coronavirus pandemic. The bond sale intended to help finance the project, which is still in the design phase, also has been postponed.
- The airport authority, however, is taking this opportunity to tweak the project design and incorporate health standards and new trends driven by coronavirus concerns, according to the airport's magazine, Blue Sky News. Designers will now work into the revamped airport's configuration COVID-19 realities like hand sanitizing stations, plexiglass barriers and social distancing measures.
- There is no indication from airport officials as to when the bond sale will happen or how the construction delay will impact the projected 2023 completion date. Traffic at the airport is down by 95% since the national economic shutdown began, according to TRIB Live.
The coronavirus aside, the airport authority's plan is to tear down an old U.S. Airways terminal and replace it with an updated one that will include ticketing, boarding, security, a new international arrival area and parking. The actual cost of the new terminal is almost $784 million, with the new parking deck at a near $259 million and new infrastructure around the airport at just over $57 million.
In December 2019, the authority approved an extra $4.7 million so that designers Gensler and HDR could include LEED certification in the design.
So, can the industry expect more airport project delays because of the pandemic? Maybe not.
"While COVID-19 presents an immediate revenue challenge for airports," said Henry D'Esposito, senior research analyst for construction at JLL, "it also opens a window of opportunity for construction projects to accelerate while passenger and traffic levels are low. Most ongoing and midstream airport projects will continue to move forward and may even accelerate schedules to take advantage of the downtime."
This is the approach that Denver International Airport (DIA) officials have taken with the concourse portion of its $3.5 billion capital construction program. DIA CEO Kim Day recently asked Denver City Council members to approve $560 million worth of contract amendments so that contractors and designers could speed up work while passenger volume is low.
If the city council approves the amendments at its next meeting the joint venture of Turner Construction and Flatiron Construction, the joint venture of Holder Construction and FCI Contractors, Jacobs Engineering, HNTB and WSP USA will see between $15 million and $265 million to their contracts.
Like Pittsburgh, D'Esposito said other airports will also be looking at design changes to accommodate public safety issues and how permanent those changes need to be.
Pittsburgh International already is employing floor-cleaning robots that use ultraviolet rays to clean away the coronavirus. This is the same technology that the New York City is beginning to use to clean its subway system. Pittsburgh is reportedly the first airport in the U.S. to take advantage of the technology.