Vancouver airport kicks off CA$9B expansion program
- Vancouver International Airport officials on Thursday announced that crews had started construction on the first of 75 projects, all part of a two-year, $9.1 billion Canadian dollars (U.S. $6.8 billion) expansion.
- Some of the projects include building one of the largest geothermal heating and cooling GeoExchange systems in Canada, new parking facilities that will increase capacity and revamped rental car facilities. The initiative will also see significant, phased-in renovations and construction at the airport's domestic and international terminals. When work is complete, passengers will be able to travel to their gates, baggage systems and other connections through one interconnected terminal.
- The airport said its goal is to be able to serve 29 million passengers by 2020. According to The Province, the price tag for the airport's capital program — due to rapid passenger growth — has increased from CA$5.6 billion since 2017. In order to fast-track construction, airport officials are reportedly considering raising the CA$5 to CA$20 airport improvement fee charged per ticket for flights into British Columbia. In 2017, the airport collected almost CA$160 million from those fees.
The Federal Aviation Administration allows U.S. airports to impose a $4.50 Passenger Facility Charge per flight segment, with a maximum of two charges ($9) per one-way trip and a maximum of four charges ($18) on a round trip. Airports then use this money to pay for FAA-approved projects that seek to improve safety, enhance security, increase capacity, reduce noise or allow for increased competition between carriers.
However, some airport advocates have said the current $4.50 charge is not adequate to help them tackle these improvements. Lawmakers have proposed lifting the cap on the fee, but Congress has consistently rejected such measures and left the maximum PFC as is.
The FAA does help airports with their capital projects in other ways, though. The administration recently made awards totaling $677 million, the first round of a $3.2 billion pot. This will pay for grants ranging from a few thousand dollars to tens of millions.
In the U.S., Chicago officials are planning an $8.5 billion capital program at O'Hare International Airport. Construction will increase the airport's square footage by 3 million and will include the renovation of three current terminals. The airport is also planning to build a new international terminal that will be able to accommodate larger airplanes. The city approved $4 billion in bonds to pay for upfront costs while newly renegotiated fees and charges with the major airlines that fly in and out of O'Hare will also pay for construction.
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