Pittsburgh, Pa. has lately become a city of new and emerging infrastructure, and soon the city’s sole commercial airport, Pittsburgh International Airport, will be receiving a well-needed facelift. The airport recently announced that it is moving forward with a plan that calls for $1.1 billion in renovations, focusing on rebuilding the current airport, as well as merging the existing terminals.
With most of the funding coming from taxes generated by passengers at Pittsburgh International Airport’s AirMall, the airport prides itself on having zero local tax dollars going into the terminal renovations.
The airport’s current terminal is 25 years old, and was built for a different purpose than the one it currently serves. When the terminal was built by the City of Pittsburgh, the goal was to be more a convenient hub for hometown carrier US Airways, as opposed to the shared terminal it became, used by all the airport’s tenant airlines.
However, high operating costs, the effects of a slowing Pittsburgh economy in the early 2000s and the sting of September 11 on the airline industry resulted in US Airways slowly downsizing service to the airport in the early 2000s. Pittsburgh’s status as a hub was removed altogether in 2009, in favor of maintaining its hub on the other side of the state in Philadelphia.
The airport, in its current state, is comprised of two separate buildings, a landside terminal and an airside terminal. The landside terminal contains all the airlines’ ticket counters, baggage claim and the remains of Concourse E, formerly used by US Airways Express. The airside terminal is a four-concourse building in an “X” shape, with a shopping and dining center in the middle, called AirMall. Passengers transition between the airside and landside terminals via underground train.
However, the days of Pittsburgh as a hub for US Airways, or any other airline, are long gone. Still, the airport wants to be more convenient for the everyday traveler.
The airport’s renovation project, dubbed the PITTransformed program, calls for partial renovation and construction of the two terminals, as the airside and landside areas will be merged into a single terminal. The airside’s current “X” configuration will be renovated, while also being enlarged to include the responsibilities of the landside terminal.
The airport’s entrance will also be changed, leading the airport to move its current parking structure, as well as the cell phone lot, closer to the new terminal for better ease of access. Once all construction on the new terminal and parking garage are finished, the airport will demolish the current landside terminal, making the airport a single-building airport.
The new single-terminal will effectively remove the need for travelers to take a train to get from the ticket counters to the gates.
As for potential operational disruptions due to the construction, the airport hopes to keep delays to a minimum. The merging of the two terminals will lead to a reduction in the number of gates in the two westerly concourses, C and D. Fortunately, the airport still has unused gates in Concourses A and B to relocate airlines as necessary.
Currently, Delta Air Lines, jetBlue Airways, OneJet, Spirit Airlines, Southern Air Express, Allegiant Airlines and all international departures and arrivals are handled in Concourses C and D.
While downsizing operations may seem like a bad thing for Pittsburgh, they are not the only city whose airports are following this path. The airports in Cincinnati, Kansas City, Memphis and New Orleans are also planning, or starting, construction on downsizing projects.
However, the airport remains optimistic, and states that the new terminal will be more adaptable to expansions, should Pittsburgh evolve into a hub again. Construction of the new terminal is due to start in 2019 with the goal to have the revamped Pittsburgh International Airport ready by 2023.