Officials at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) and its managing Allegheny County Airport Authority (ACAA) announced a $1.1 billion terminal modernization plan (TMP) Sept. 12, with construction set to begin in 2019 for an anticipated opening in 2023.

The new design for the airport will create an expanded security checkpoint, the elimination of the airport’s people-mover train, a newly configured international arrivals process, an improved baggage system, and implementation of modern technology throughout.

“Built as a mega hub facility, the current airport finds itself built for the past, much too large in some areas and capacity-constrained in others,” ACAA said.

According to ACAA, the plan “eliminates critical points of failure like the train and baggage delivery system.”

PIT’s present landside terminal exists at a distance from the airport’s renovated airside gates. After passing through security, passengers must board a people-mover train to reach the airside gates. Similarly, baggage must make the lengthy journey back and forth between the airside gates and the landside terminal.

The TMP’s centerpiece is a new landside terminal adjacent to the existing airside terminal and its 51 gates. A new six-story parking garage/car rental/ground transportation center will be constructed adjacent to the new terminal. After the new landside terminal opens, the former terminal will be demolished, unless ACAA has determined a viable re-use for the facility.

The new two-level 632,000 sq. ft. landside terminal will feature, on its concourse level, consolidated airline operations and all passenger and public spaces, including ticketing, baggage claim, an expanded security checkpoint and concessions. A mezzanine level will house ACAA offices. The terminal’s ground level will house baggage operations, explosive baggage detection systems, building utilities and other airline and airport support operational facilities.

The redesigned airport will have 46 airline gates with boarding bridges and five swing gates for overnight aircraft.

“The TMP design provides more operational gates than are [now] being used at the airport (51 versus 40) [and] many of the current gates are configured with exclusive-use equipment unique to a specific carrier, thus eliminating any potential for flexibility by use of another carrier,” ACAA said. “The new design format incorporates a common-use concept that will provide more flexibility in gate and other systems’ usage by multiple air carriers … fewer gates will provide the potential for a higher number of air carriers to utilize these gates more efficiently.”

“So instead of the airport becoming a smaller facility, the design of the gates will instead create a smarter facility,” ACAA said.

ACAA began working on a Master Plan update (MPU) for PIT in 2013. The authority incorporated 20-year forecasts into the plan, with all facilities—terminal, roads, parking and the airfield designed to meet 2033 expectations. “At its opening in 2023 the new terminal complex will have the capability to serve 12 million annual passengers, which is the forecast for 2033, or ten years after opening,” ACAA said. “The terminal design will easily accommodate a much larger annual passenger total [with] the flexibility of the space—a big box loose fit—and the common use technology that will be deployed.”

With the announcement of the TMP, public comments will be considered by ACAA and additional design changes may yet be integrated into the plan. The budget cost of the project may also change, ACAA said. FAA must grant final approval of the project before construction can commence.

“This facility gives us the ability to truly make [PIT] the gateway to our region and continues our ascent as industry leaders,” ACAA CEO Christina Cassotis said. “This is about being much more operationally efficient with a technology focus to position us for the future.”

Pittsburgh International Airport was named the 2017 Airport of the Year by Air Transport World.

Mark Nensel