Airport Expansion

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Plans are progressing for a $500 million expansion at Sky Harbor Airport. Airport Deputy Aviation Director Deborah Ostreicher will discuss the expansion plans.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The Phoenix city council last night awarded an $18 million design-build contract to expand Sky Harbor Airport. The plans include closing one terminal and increasing the capacity of another. Here with more is airport deputy aviation director Deborah Ostreicher. Thank you so much for joining us. Again, this was -- This is not an $18 million project, this is just the project to get the project started, right?

Deborah Ostreicher: Exactly right, Ted. This is kind of what we call plan to plan. What the Phoenix City Council approved yesterday was our ability to move forward with designing what it is we're looking at here with expanding terminal three.

Ted Simons: What are we looking at? It sounds like terminal two goes away, terminal three gets bigger?

Deborah Ostreicher: Our main concern is modernizing terminal three, which was opened in 1979. It is just not efficient enough at this point to serve into the future. So we want to expand that, and make some plans so that we can eventually move the airlines from terminal two into terminal three.

Ted Simons: And expanding by how much in terms of the gates, double the size? Something along those lines?

Deborah Ostreicher: We don't know the exact plans yet, but you're right, we plan to add additional gates eventually, expand the security checkpoint lanes, and add food, beverage, and concessions.

Ted Simons: And eventually closing terminal two.

Deborah Ostreicher: Our ultimate plan is that terminal two, which is even older than terminal three, was constructed in the late 50's, early 60's, opened in 1962, it definitely is no longer the best terminal to serve one of America's busiest airports.

Ted Simons: If terminal two is closed, what happens to the structure? Does it stay, does it go?

Deborah Ostreicher: We don't have any plans for that yet. Our main focus at this time is to modernize terminal three so that it can meet the needs that we know this community desires, so there are no plans at this time to do anything other than move the airlines from terminal two into terminal three.

Ted Simons: Wasn't there, I seem to remember there being some expansion plans involving the west side, like a 33-gate, just a humongous plan that seemed to go away and now we're hearing about this. What's going on?

Deborah Ostreicher: You're absolutely right. Before the recession and before airlines began cutting capacity throughout the country and throughout the world, we did have plans for a new 33-gate terminal. But we want to be really smart and strategic on how we expand and build, so we can meet the needs of the community and now, today our best bet is to go with this plan. We still have another concourse we can expand in terminal four, because that was also built to expand. And in terminal three, right now that is the most strategic move for us, to modernize terminal three, and sometime in the future we could still build an additional terminal.

Ted Simons: In phases, this modernization of terminal three?

Deborah Ostreicher: It is. It's in phases because, again, we want to be very smart about how we do this, and prioritize. So the first area is going to be to expand the security checkpoints so that we have enough lanes to get through there. Anybody who's flown there in a busy time has seen it can get very busy at those security checkpoint lanes.

Ted Simons: This is on, so anybody who wants to see the plans can check this out. You're expanding security checkpoints, any idea how long that would take? Any idea what kind of disruption we're talking about?

Deborah Ostreicher: We're hoping to keep disruption to a minimum, as always. We'll do everything we can do make sure the airlines can continue to run efficiently, because that is very important of course. And also that passengers are comfortable as they move through the airport. So as far as timeline, we're looking at around five to seven years for all of these things we're talking about. But we'll know a lot more after we get through this design process over the next year.

Ted Simons: And the second phase was upgrading ticket counters and luggage carousels, drop-off zones?

Deborah Ostreicher: Exactly. We want to make sure efficiency and comfort is number one, and right now the way the terminal, which was designed in the 70's, it's not exactly the best terminal to meet the needs of the future. So we want to make sure we design the ticket counters, all of the processes, baggage claim and everything else, to best serve passengers in the future.

Ted Simons: And the third phase, final phase, beginning from the video we saw those gates, that's a lot of gates, is this -- It sounds more organic than that 33-gate big project before the recession on the west side. Is that the idea, to be able to adapt in case new forms of transportation, new forms of air travel, new forms of everything start popping up between now and then?

Deborah Ostreicher: I'm so glad you mentioned that. I know you keep hearing me say strategic, but we really need to be. You're right, the industry continues to change, and we want to be very thoughtful and careful about how we move through this. And strategic as we make these plans.

Ted Simons: Costs. General ideas? I know there's no firm plans, but what are you looking at?

Deborah Ostreicher: We don't know yet, but in today's dollars, we think it could be around $500 million over this many-year period as we do this designing. But we'll know more about that as we go through the process.

Ted Simons: Where would the money come from?

Deborah Ostreicher: Definitely no local tax dollars, no general fund. This is all through airport user fees, if you use the airport, we generate revenue there, and that's how we pay for everything we do.

Ted Simons: No general fund at all?

Deborah Ostreicher: No general fund at all.

Ted Simons: Retail, food, parking those things?

Deborah Ostreicher: Exactly.

Ted Simons: So what's next? We had that design-build plan, the preplan to the plan approved last night. What's next?

Deborah Ostreicher: Now we move forward with what we call a 30% moving forward. Where we can get a look at all of the three phases that you mentioned, so we can start to get an idea of exactly what we're talking about. The video you showed gave us an idea what we need to look for. Now we're going to get a little bit more into the trenches and figure out what does that really mean when we talk about expanding the security checkpoints?

Ted Simons: And last question here, again, we were talking about adaptability and being able to move the goalposts, if you will. With transportation, does Light Rail play a factor here? Does the Sky Train play a factor? How does that work its way in?

Deborah Ostreicher: Sky Train plays a huge factor, and as of April 8 it connects to Light rail so you can get to the airport through the station at 44th and Washington. By Super Bowl 2015 we'll have the Sky Train station open in terminal three, and you will be able to continue to walk a very convenient pathway to terminal two, and that will be the Sky Train, and it will go to all three terminals by 2015.

Ted Simons: OK. So even -- But you gotta think this expansion project should be started by Super Bowl 2015?

Deborah Ostreicher: Absolutely. The project will be started at that point, that's our expected time frame. But it will certainly not be finished by then, but the Sky Train will be open.

Ted Simons: Interesting stuff. All right. Good to have you here. Good information.

Deborah Ostreicher: Nice to see you, Ted.

Deborah Ostreicher:Deputy Aviation Director, Sky Harbor Airport;

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