Following a near-total collapse of air travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, early 2024 marks a significant milestone as North American air travel is finally returning to normal.

Normal, however, may not be the appropriate word because many airports are experiencing significantly higher passenger demand. The demand is driving a huge need for expansion and renovation, resulting in an abundance of new airport projects.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provided $15 billion for all kinds of airport projects. This funding has been streaming out since 2022 at a rate of about $2.9 billion per year. And the outflow will continue until 2026. To date, approximately $9 billion has been made available to airports, and there is about $6 billion left to be allocated.

The Pensacola Airport in Florida has seen a 40% increase in passengers, creating an immediate need to expand its terminals to accommodate the growth. Funded partially by the Florida Department of Transportation, a new $70 million project to accommodate the increased capacity to serve more passengers will begin soon. The project will expand the existing terminal by about 50%.

While the design process is still underway, the expansion is expected to include larger security spaces, a second concourse with five new gates and numerous new concessions. Plans also call for additional parking spaces and improving utility infrastructure throughout the airport.

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Photo courtesy of Bao Menglong on Unsplash.

Officials at the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport will soon launch a massive expansion project to the facility’s main terminal and concourses. Funded through grants from the Federal Aviation Administration and non-aviation-related revenues, Phase 1 of this project is expected to be the most significant phase in construction, and it carries a cost projection of $780 million. It will expand the main terminal building to include new spaces for ticketing, customs, baggage claims and security. It will also relocate the existing car rental building and add additional parking. Later phases of the project will reroute the airport’s surrounding roadways.

The design phase may be ongoing through 2025, and if that is the case, construction will potentially begin in late 2025.

Tweed New Haven Airport executives recently received federal approval to move forward with plans to expand the airport runway and build a 70,000-square-foot terminal and airport entrance. The $165 million expansion will increase the airport’s capacity, keep up with regulatory requirements and reduce noise pollution from increased air traffic.

According to planning documents, Phase 1 of the project will include $74 million for land acquisition, obstruction removal, design and construction of a terminal. Also included will be runway extension and noise mitigation. A construction launch may be delayed until 2026. Other project components include more land acquisition, expansion of a maintenance building and fuel farm, a taxiway expansion and the construction of additional hangars.

While most airport projects involve construction and expansion, technological improvements will be required to increase the efficiency of airport processes. One example is Orlando International Airport, where it is notoriously difficult to find parking despite garages and surface lots offering more than 22,000 parking spaces. Airport officials plan to address this problem by identifying a partner to install an Automated Parking Guidance System for a cost of about $9.6 million.

An upcoming request for proposals will ask bidders to provide software, hardware, equipment, installation and seven years of support and maintenance for the system. The parking system will monitor vacant spaces in real time, provide colored indicators to indicate full and empty spaces and deliver parking information on roadway signage and online applications. A solicitation document will be released in March of this year, with responses due by May 2024.

Another large project worthy of note can be found at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Texas. Commonly referred to as the Concourse B Expansion Project, an effort will be made to accommodate the increasing demand for air travel in Central Texas. The Concourse B expansion will construct a 20-gate concourse with passenger and tenant spaces, state-of-the-art passenger boarding bridges, an expanded baggage handling system and improved apron support spaces. Additionally, it will feature extensive underground utilities, including an in-pavement hydrant fueling system. The project will also include constructing a subgrade tunnel to connect the Barbara Jordan Terminal with the new Concourse B facility. The design will deliver the capability to expand to a new Concourse C when the time is right. The tunnel project will likely include an Automated People Mover (passenger train) corridor. With a towering projected cost between $1.1 billion and $2 billion, the Concourse B and tunnel project is scheduled for completion in 2030.

Federally funded airport projects will continue to launch through 2026. Many more are currently in the planning stages.

Mary Scott Nabers

As President and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc., Mary Scott Nabers has decades of experience working in the public-private sector. A well-recognized expert in the P3 and government contracting fields, she is often asked to share her industry insights with top publications and through professional speaking engagements.