- The Alleghany County Airport Authority is closer to kicking off the terminal replacement project at Pittsburgh International Airport, announcing it narrowed its design firm choices to four teams: AECOM; Corgan and Michael Baker; Gensler and HDR; and Luis Vidal + Architects/CannonDesign. Construction of the terminal is estimated at $784 million, and the projected completion date is 2023, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The authority is speeding up the pace of the airport's total $1.1 billion modernization project that includes a new building for ticketing, security and baggage claim. The authority board authorized spending $18.5 million to hire an architectural and engineering team to begin work on the plan.
- In addition, the airport could soon have a sensory room in its boarding terminal as well, the newspaper reported. The authority this week will consider design ideas for a "calming" room, which typically has special features like swings, special lighting and textured surfaces and can be a soothing preflight environment for passengers on the autism spectrum or those with other special needs. Pittsburgh International would be the third airport in the world to offer passengers such a feature.
Not only are airport officials all over the world beginning to design for those on the spectrum, but dementia and visual impairments are also being taken into consideration.
Shannon Airport in Ireland was the first to offer a dedicated space to calm those with conditions like autism and dementia before a flight, and several airports in the U.S., including Minneapolis-St. Paul International, offer smart glasses to low-vision passengers in order to help them navigate their way through the facility and provide them with flight information and other assistance, according to Airport Technology.
For the most part, however, airports are focused on creating new spaces that will allow them to handle passengers in more efficient ways, with contractors benefiting from projects that create demand for renovation and new construction.
The governor of Hawaii announced in February that Honolulu International Airport would get a new 800,000-square-foot, $1.1 billion concourse to replace one that has been in operation for 50 years. The 10-year undertaking will include up to 14 larger gates, an extra international arrival point with customs and border protection facilities and a new security checkpoint. The project could also include a new commuter terminal.
Like the revamp in Honolulu, airport construction projects can cost billions, and some facilities are too cash-strapped to fund them independently. For instance, the planned expansion of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport is expected to cost $8.5 billion. So some in the industry were disappointed when Congress, as part of the $1.23 trillion spending bill, failed to eliminate or raise the cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC), which now sits at $4.50 per flight. Airports often use this fee to help finance their capital programs and their officials have been lobbying against the limit.