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NEWS Last modified on November 19, 2018

Blog: US airports responding to competition at home and overseas

Because of aging infrastructure, the lack of leading edge technology, transit options and minimal passenger comforts, the US's airports are in dire need of immediate attention, writes Mary Scott Nabers.  

Indeed, not a single airport in the US is listed in the top 20 airports worldwide anymore. That's the bad news.

The good news is that there’s a flurry of activity around America’s airports and there are plans to inject billions of dollars into rectifying the airport dilemma. There is no doubt that change is in the winds.

Civil aviation in the United States accounts for 10.6 million industry-related jobs and provides a $910 billion boost to the country’s GDP.

Last year, America’s airports enplaned 860.3 million passengers. Experts say that those passenger counts will climb to 1.012 billion by 2027.
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Minimal maintenance and Band-Aid approaches to shortcomings at major airports won’t work anymore. Municipal leaders and airport officials are planning new construction, traffic redesigns, new parking garages, people movers and an abundance of first-class amenities in passenger terminals.

Estimates are that over the next three years, US airports will spend an estimated $70 billion to modernise infrastructure at more than 50 airports.

That opens up contracting and sub-contracting opportunities for construction firms, technology companies, architectural, engineering and almost every other type of company. Even smaller airports are announcing plans for construction, renovations and upgrades on a weekly basis.

A $3.6 billion terminal replacement, being called the largest construction project in state history, is currently underway in Salt Lake City, Utah.

As the 25th busiest airport in North America, this airport was originally designed to serve less than half of the 24 million passengers it served last year. The project is about half completed with the first phase set for completion in 2020.
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The second phase will offer contracting opportunities through its 2024 completion date, including demolition of the international terminal as well as two concourses. A new east concourse wing will be added to the new terminal.

The upside of the project is that it currently employs about 1,750 construction workers and the airport is spending between $50 million and $70 million each month. The boost to the local and regional economy has been more than significant.

Funding for these projects is coming from a variety of sources – bonds, grants, private-sector investors, user fees and public budgets.

New York LaGuardia Airport’s new central terminal project, expected to cost $8 billion, is being funded by both public and private funds with about 75% of the total coming from private investors.
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This project is considered to be the nation’s largest infrastructure public-private partnership.

Tampa International Airport officials recently held an outreach event for companies interested in working on the second phase of the $2.6 billion master plan. This part will include kerbside expansion and a commercial development area that will feature an office building, a convenience store with a gas station and a hotel.

A $14 billion modernization at Los Angeles International Airport, ranked fifth among the world’s top 10 airports for total passengers, has already completed a number of individual projects.

However, still to come are a 2.25-mile, $5 billion people mover project and construction of a satellite concourse that will include 12 new aircraft gates, taxiways, taxi lanes and utility improvements.
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Airport owners have also solicited developer ideas for a large tract of land that will feature retail space, pedestrian and bicycle areas and green space.

More than $100 million in improvements are on tap at the Missoula International Airport in Montana, including a new passenger terminal.

The airport authority is expected to approve the design phase and pre-construction services this month. Bids will be awarded in July for the initial projects and more work will be approved in January 2019 for the main terminal expansion.

Newark Liberty International Airport is renovating its oldest terminal. The project, with a cost of $2.7 billion, will add more than 30 gates, 3,000 parking spaces, new roadways and retail space. The new terminal is expected to open by 2022.

New York City officials are hoping for a 2025 completion date for a proposed $13 billion redevelopment of the John F Kennedy International Airport. Preliminary engineering and design work has started already.
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The plan calls for two new international terminal complexes, new security technology including radiation detection and use of leading edge technology for identification of unattended packages. The project also calls for construction of dining facilities, retail and conference and meeting space.

Companies offering services of all types to airports in 2019 will be in very high demand.

• Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc., a business development company specialising in government contracting and procurement consulting throughout the US.

Her recently released book, Inside the Infrastructure Revolution: A Roadmap for Building America, is a handbook for contractors, investors and the public at large seeking to explore how public-private partnerships or joint ventures can help finance their infrastructure projects.

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