Public-Private Partnerships Finance Major Airport Infrastructure Upgrades



The U.S. Department of Transportation recently announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will be awarding $230 million in Airport Improvement Grants. This is welcome news for travelers at the 104 airports that have been chosen to receive funding based on the volume of passengers they serve each year (the funds are aimed at smaller, regional airports).
These grants are earmarked for a range of airport infrastructure solutions, including upgrades and repairs to runways, lighting, markings and signage.The grants are also expected to create a significant number of jobs, including in electrical contracting as many projects will include replacing aging electrical systems. Specialty expertise in power distribution, data communications, lighting, cable management and logistics will be required to meet the strict guidelines for systems dealing with aeronautical navigation and surveillance, aircraft ground handling, and the processing of passengers and their baggage at high security active airports. But what about the airports not on the list?

LaGuardia Airport (LGA)

Many of the country’s larger airports have chosen to pursue public-private partnerships (P3) to finance their major renovations and additions. For example, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey chose a P3 for construction of the new $4 billion terminal at LaGuardia Airport, which includes improving electrical capacity; a project that Turtle & Hughes assisted in the design of the power distribution system. The Port Authority teamed up with LaGuardia Gateway Partners, which has provided a full range of services, including financing, designing and building the new terminal. It will also manage operations and maintenance when complete.
In addition to LaGuardia, several other large airports are launching P3 projects — rather than relying on FAA funding — to upgrade their facilities. Below, we look at three large airports and the P3 projects they’re moving forward with.

John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK)

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) is also planning a $10 billion renovation of JFK. The goal is to make passenger connections easier between the currently separate terminals, expand AirTrain rail access, and upgrade the facilities in the terminals to make the airport experience a better one for passengers. The parking and road system will get an overhaul, as will the cargo facilities. Improvements will also be made to airside, aeronautical and support infrastructure.

This huge project grew out of recommendations from the New York Governor’s Airport Advisory Panel and is considered essential to meet the growing number of passengers traveling through JFK Airport. In 2016, the airport served 60 million passengers, and this number is forecast to grow to 75 million over the next 13 years.
But PANYNJ isn’t going it alone. In July, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that PANYNJ issued a request for proposals from potential master planners who have a track record of delivering large-scale infrastructure solutions for airports. The chosen private firm will lead the preliminary engineering and design work for this massive project.

Portland International Airport (PDX)

The Port of Portland in Oregon is planning a $1.3 billion, five-year overhaul of the terminal at PDX. Before it gets started, the Port of Portland will need to secure the approval of the airlines that use the airport, since they are the ones that would be financing it. If all goes as planned, this upgrade will be good news for the ever-growing number of passengers traveling through PDX, since the airport is currently on the verge of running out of capacity, and the airport is facing challenges with keeping departures and arrivals on track.
If this upgrade goes ahead, it will mean the airport can serve an additional 17 million passengers a year, and the flow of these passengers through the airport will be vastly improved. The plans include the expansion of Concourse E to create more gates, a new fuel station for rental cars, an additional 2,400 parking spots for rental cars and 1,200 for public parking, a new gas station, and a new cellphone waiting area. Also, the aging electrical and plumbing systems, as well as the roof, are in line for an upgrade. Structural work will be done to make the building better able to withstand earthquakes. A decision on funding is due to be made in the fall.

Reagan National Airport (DCA)

This summer sees the start of the $1 billion renovation project at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, which is managed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. The new infrastructure solutions planned for this overhaul include building a new commuter concourse, moving some restaurants to the area behind the security gates, and adding 28 new security checkpoints.

It is hoped that these upgrades will ease the congestion in an airport that was designed to process 15 million customers a year but is currently serving more than 23 million.

Opportunities for Providers of Infrastructure Solutions

These are just a small selection of the airport infrastructure projects in progress and in the planning stage across the country. There are many more going on. With the number of passengers traveling through U.S. airports growing steadily, as well as the amount of cargo being transported, this infrastructure work is unlikely to abate anytime soon.
There’s global growth too. The latest statistics from Airports Council International show that in 2016 the total number of passengers traveling grew by 5.6 percent and international passengers by 6.6 percent. Cargo, including mail, was up by 3.3 percent and international freight by 4.3 percent.

With air travel and transport on a clear upward trajectory, the infrastructure solutions that enable it will need to be upgraded and expanded for years to come, providing opportunities that infrastructure businesses must keep a close eye on.

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