5 major airport projects take off in the South

There’s been a recent buzz of airport construction activity across the country as the sector rebounds from its pandemic slump. Projects with eye-popping price tags like John F. Kennedy International Airport’s $18 billion makeover and Chicago O’Hare International Airport’s $7.1 billion expansion get a lot of attention, but major airport efforts are happening across the country.

Airport projects of all sizes and geographies are getting a boost from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which designates $15 billion over five years for runways, safety and sustainability efforts, terminals, airport-transit connections and roadway projects. 

$2.89 billion has been made available for airport projects in fiscal year 2023, and in February, the Federal Aviation Administration awarded nearly $1 billion to 99 airports across the country. Even airport overhauls without federal funding are lifting off this year

Read on to learn about five major projects in the South.

Charlotte Douglas Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina

Cost: $3.1 billion

Destination CLT, Charlotte Douglas Airport’s $3.1 billion capital program, began in 2016 and is being completed in phases. Work entails an elevated roadway and terminal curb front, the expansion of Concourse A and an overhaul of the East Terminal. The goal of the work is to accommodate a passenger load that has nearly doubled in the past 20 years.

There is still a lot of work ongoing, including the $231 million, 10-gate expansion of Concourse A, which is being built by a JE Dunn/McFarland Construction joint venture. A Holder-Edison Foard-Leeper JV are the contractors tapped for the $600 million expansion and renovation of the 40-year-old main terminal, which broke ground in 2019 and will wrap in 2025. 

The new 146,000-square-foot canopy being built over the eight lanes of traffic in front of the passenger terminal will be complete in a few months, per the airport. The work is funded by airport revenue streams, state grants and other sources. It received $32 million for Concourse E renovations from the IIJA this year.

Nashville International Airport in Nashville, Tennessee

Cost: $1.4 billion

Announced in 2022, the $2.4 billion New Horizons plan entails expanding two concourses, building a new air freight building and overhauling terminal roadways to improve traffic flow. Both concourses will gain additional gates, moving walkways and more concessions, according to the airport, but specific details will evolve as segments of the project take shape. 

The project aims to enable the airport to handle more domestic and international travelers, said Doug Kreulen, BNA president and CEO, in the release.

“The passenger volume we’ve seen at Nashville International Airport continues to outpace our previous projections, which is a great sign for our city, but it also means that we have to continue building for the future,” said Kreulen. 

Construction is set to start in late 2023 on the $250 million expansion of Concourse D, with the overall project scheduled to wrap in late 2028. A Hensel Phelps/Fentress Architects JV is the general contractor for Concourse D. Funding will come from bonds, federal and state aviation grants, passenger facility charges and other airport funds, according to the airport.

Louisville Muhammad Ali Airport in Louisville, Kentucky

Cost: $500 million

The multi-year SDF Next program entails a slew of projects, including an expanded security checkpoint, improvements to baggage claim and security areas, a new information center, new exteriors and more parking.

Work began in 2020 and is expected to take five to seven years to complete. Cincinnati-based Messer Construction built the parking garage and express shuttle parking lot, which both opened in 2020, per the Louisville Regional Airport Authority. The operations center opened in 2021.

Ongoing work includes overhauling the security area and building the largest geothermal system of any U.S. airport to heat and cool the Jerry E. Abramson Terminal more cost efficiently, according to the Louisville Regional Airport Authority. Greenfield, Indiana-based E&B Paving broke ground on the $21.7 million geothermal system in 2021. 

Louisville’s airport is receiving $13.3 million per year for five years through the IIJA, and the geothermal system nabbed a $10.6 million Voluntary Airport Low Emissions grant from the Federal Aviation Administration.  

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in Maryland

Cost: $425 million

Maryland’s BWI Airport, the busiest in the Washington, D.C., region, is set to get major terminal improvements and upgrades to its A/B Connector and baggage handling system. It’s the largest overhaul in the airport’s history, according to the Washington Post, and work also includes expanded holding areas, restrooms and food and retail concessions space. 

The project was approved in September 2022, and major construction started in December that same year. Bethesda, Maryland-based Clark Construction was tapped for the $332 million expansion and baggage system work. BWI’s main carrier Southwest Airlines is also building a $135 million maintenance facility.

The new baggage handling system and connector are slated to finish in late 2025, and the rest of the work will be done by summer 2026. 

Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Meyers, Florida

Cost: $331 million

The terminal at Southwest Florida International Airport is being expanded to meet a surge in passenger traffic, according to the Lee County Port Authority. The $331 million project will deliver a single, consolidated TSA checkpoint, a connector between the three existing concourses and 164,000 square feet of remodeled space with new concession areas and a business lounge.

Construction started in 2021 and is scheduled to wrap in late 2024. Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Manhattan Construction Group is the general contractor.

The three-year effort will create about 1,000 jobs with an average of 200 daily workers, and is the second largest public works project in Lee County, Florida, history, per the Lee County Port Authority. It’s being funded with grants from the Florida DOT, passenger facility charges, airport revenue bonds and the Lee County Port Authority construction fund.

Julie Strupp
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