MOON TOWNSHIP (KDKA) – Once a crowning jewel for Pittsburgh with its landside and airside terminals connected by an underground train, Pittsburgh International Airport has reached a crossroads.
Opened in 1992, Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald says, “At the time, it was leading edge. But, now, 25 years later, we’re about to embark again on making this facility leading edge.”
Airport CEO Christina Cassotis says, “We are a vibrant growing tech focused economy and that is what needs to be reflected directly at the airport.”
WEB EXTRA: A Look At The New Terminal —
At Tuesday’s unveiling of the redesign for the airport, more than one speaker made reference to the days when the airport saw 38 million passengers a year.
Cassotis put it this way, “This facility was built for an airline that is no longer in business, so it’s time for us in Pittsburgh to build our airport.”
A new business magnet in it’s day, the airport has become an impediment at a time when the community is trying to lure Amazon and others to town. It has also become an economic albatross with the landside terminal, the elevator, escalator, and people mover systems all heading for major repairs in the years to come. Not to mention an underground train that is costing $3 million a year to operate.
So between the C and D concourses of the airside terminal, the plan is to build a new landside building attached to the existing X-shaped airside terminal.
Airport Authority Chairman David Minnotte says, “It’s a win-win situation for everybody. The cost are lower for the airlines, the airport gets a new facility, that will be very efficient and modern. And, finally, this is most important for me, the people of Pittsburgh finally get an airport that is built for them, and not US Air.”
So what can you expect in the new configuration of Pittsburgh International Airport? The new, attached landside terminal will eliminate the underground train and most of the escalators.
KDKA’s John Shumway Reports —
Cassotis says, “What you are going to see is a single concourse level. Everything on the same level, baggage, check-in, meet and greet, TSA, gates, it’s all on the same level. You will see a shortened passenger transit time, and reduced bag delivery times, which should make everybody happy.”
When the airport opened there were 100 gates. Twenty-five commuter gates were eliminated in 2003, and in this redevelopment the dogleg ends of the A and B concourses will be eliminated.
Cassotis says, “The number of gates on the airside will be 51. That’s a dozen more than we use today.”
The downsizing will bring the airport more in line with the eight million passengers who use it every year, instead of the 38 million who used it at the peak of its hub days.
The cost of this new streamlined PIA, $1 billion.
KDKA’s Kym Gable Reports —
Fitzgerald emphatically pointed out, “There will be no local tax dollars going into this project.”
So how will they pay the bill?
Cassotis says, “We’re going to float bonds and use the money we get from Consol [shale gas drilling funds], and our parking revenue and the revenue we get when you go to McDonald’s and Chik-fil-A. That’s how we’re going to pay for it, we’re going to float bonds.
Cassotis tells the “KDKA Morning News” it is cheaper to build a new facility rather than update the current one.
“When you have inadequate security checkpoints, as we do, not enough space for TSA queuing, two baggage systems, and old building with eight miles of bag belts that take bags to and from the terminal, it’s actually not cheaper and we looked at it,” said Cassotis.
The existing landside terminal will be available for private development or torn down once the new facility is ready.
The debt on the existing terminal will be mostly paid off within the next year. Construction on the new landside terminal is expected to begin in 2019 and ready to open in 2023.