As travelers gradually return to the air, many will notice that the airport experience may be a bit different, and perhaps even better, as airports around the country rebuild and redesign their facilities. Last month, for example, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the release of $76 million in grants designed to upgrade airport infrastructure. While that cash infusion only affects three U.S. airports, numerous improvements are either in the works or already complete in other cities, too.
The latest grants are going to Chicago O’Hare International Airport, which will receive $25 million to build a new runway; Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, which will receive $31 million to expand its taxiway system; and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, which will receive $20 million to fund a runway extension.
These are the first in a series of more than 1,500 grants that will eventually pump some $3.2 billion into the infrastructure at hundreds of U.S. airports. But there are already plenty of improvements underway that aren’t related to the grants, as well.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, for example, will complete a modernization project at Terminal 2 by July 2021, after remodeling two concourses at Terminal 3 last year. Chicago O’Hare, meanwhile, is making plans for what it calls O’Hare 21, an $8.5 billion redevelopment project that’s described as the biggest expansion effort in the facility’s 60-year history. A $2.2-billion newbuild Global Terminal, an expanded Terminal 5 and two new satellite concourses are all part of the project, which is slated for completion in 2028.
Nearby, Chicago’s Midway International Airport is benefiting from a modernization project that includes a new, 80,000-square-foot security pavilion that doubles the facility’s previous TSA processing capacity; parking garage enhancements and a new concessions program are also part of the refurbishment.
Not far from Dallas Fort Worth International, meanwhile, Dallas Love Field Airport is starting reconstruction of runway 13R/31L, as well as the construction of a new taxiway and improvements to the airport entry road.
Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic are playing a major role in airport modernization, according to SITA, an air transportation IT provider. Based on surveys conducted in the second half of 2020, the company’s most recent Air Transport IT Insights report found that features such as automated passenger processing and touchless and mobile services have increasingly become a necessity for modern airports.
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The report also found that 64% of airports plan to debut self-boarding gates by 2023, as biometric technology has proved its value as a tool for safety and efficiency.
In fact, self-boarding gates will be a key component of a brand-new, one-million-square-foot terminal in the works at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. Designed to replace Terminal A, the facility will feature a variety of “post-pandemic design” changes including touchless check-in, hospital-grade air filtration, contactless TSA checkpoint entry and contactless self-boarding at gates.
The first new gates are expected to open in early 2022, with the entire terminal to be completed by the end of 2022. The construction is part of a $5.5 billion project that will also include redesigned roadways and improved AirTrain Newark access.
Elsewhere in the New York City area, LaGuardia Airport has already debuted a sparkling new terminal B, with additional new concourses being completed this year and plans underway for a new AirTrain LaGuardia link. Nearby, John F. Kennedy International Airport is finalizing plans for an ambitious $13 billion redo that will include two new international terminal complexes. The first new gates are to debut in 2023, with the entire project expected to wrap up in 2025.
Recently upgraded facilities elsewhere around the country include Salt Lake City International Airport, which debuted a new four-million-square-foot airport terminal in 2020, and Denver International Airport, which is in the midst of a gate expansion and concourse renewal program that will be complete in 2024.
On the West Coast, Los Angeles International Airport is spending some $1.86 billion to revamp terminals 2 and 3, as well as the Tom Bradley International Terminal, by 2023. And there’s even more in the works — including a new midfield satellite concourse, a consolidated rental car center and a 2.25-mile automated people mover designed to make it easier for passengers to travel among terminals as well as to the Metro Rail and other public transportation services.