Airport Upgrades Deliver Huge Boost to Construction Opportunities
Airport construction is rampant throughout the world and also in Texas. Historically, the U.S. has been behind other countries in airport superiority, and its global competitiveness has suffered as a result. But, now America is playing an aggressive game of “catch up” as evidenced by several current and upcoming airport construction projects.
For an example of the competition the U.S. faces at the international level, a new 1.5 million-square-foot airport complex is under construction in Kuwait, and when it opens in 2023, visitors will be greeted with indoor waterfalls and an abundance of natural light. The construction project will have LEED Gold certification and state of the art technology.
At the new Salt Lake City International Airport, travelers will soon be treated to large-scale interior sculptured walls, glass sculptures and lots of energy efficient lighting. Not to be outdone, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport also plans to impress passengers with expansive panoramic views of the outdoors. One long and large glassed wall will showcase Mount Rainier and the other side will draw all eyes to the Olympic Mountains.
Interior glitz in airports is now the norm, but it is the other upgrades that are in highest demand. New cutting-edge technology, processes designed to move passengers quicker and more efficiently, super-charged security, and enhanced retail and hospitality establishments are the critical components.
Texas has 730 airports and six international airports. Almost all are currently either planning or launching construction projects. Construction firms should be able to find almost any (and every) type of construction opportunity in Texas. While the larger airport projects will be in high demand, it is important to remember that smaller airports also have critical needs and the demand for construction contractors will be significant.
The funding to support these upcoming projects will come from many sources including bond packages, debt, federal grant programs, private-sector investment groups, large regional banks, insurance companies, pension funds, and legislative appropriations. In many cases, the initial funding will likely be consolidated with revenue from other funding sources.
The Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, the largest airport in Texas and the fourth-largest in the U.S., will launch a major expansion. A new terminal designed to accommodate 30 to 35 new gates is under discussion. That project would replace what is currently known as Terminal F and may be built on the site of the current South Express parking lot. The project does not yet have a projected construction cost, but at least one airport official has said the new terminal would likely be the largest part of an airport capital improvement plan and it could cost between $3 billion to $4 billion. Other construction projects will include improvements to Terminal C, a facility that has not been upgraded in more than 20 years. Terminal C is extremely busy at all times – possibly the busiest facility in the airport complex – and it is long overdue for enhancements. Funding for the DFW expansion could come from airport revenue bonds issued by the airport’s owner cities, Dallas and Fort Worth. However, there has also been talk about considering a public-private partnership engagement, which would bring in some private-sector capital.
City leaders in San Antonio have been discussing plans to expand the city’s International Airport for a number of years. Discussions have been held related to moving the airport, expanding it significantly where it is now located, and even the possibility of outsourcing management of the airport. Although conversations are ongoing, it appears unlikely now that the airport will be relocated. Instead, upcoming projects will likely include expansions, upgrades, and enhancements. Also, construction of a new taxiway at the airport is a project that appears to be on a fast track.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced funding to San Antonio of $4.6 million for the taxiway, and the project has been approved. The new taxiway would span 750 feet and be constructed to connect airport tenants at the southeast corner of the airfield – private flyers and other non-commercial tenants – to a nearby runway. Officials say that the new runway will be wider and located farther away from planes that land on the runway. Another runway is planned, and city leaders expect another federal grant. Construction has an anticipated start date of late 2019 or early 2020.
The Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport has announced a number of upcoming construction projects. Officials plan to construct a new TAC air executive terminal for private use, and that project should be launched within the next 10 to 12 months. Other construction projects will include enhancements and improvements to a parking garage, several elevators, and selected taxiways. The Amarillo airport has experienced a 6 percent increase in air travel and the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program recently dedicated $280,000 in federal grant money for upcoming design costs.
The Easterwood Airport at College Station, home of Texas A&M University’s main campus, recently received $2.8 million from a federal aviation grant program to rehabilitate its taxiways. Currently, Easterwood Airport’s taxiways do not meet federal standards, so this project will move quickly. Plans call for upgrading the existing runway and also for straightening it. Although there has been no recent announcement of a timeline it is expected to be launched in the very near future.
Two airports in Houston have also recently received FAA funding. George Bush Intercontinental Airport has received $15 million in federal funds, and airport officials will use the revenue for a number of airport enhancements as well as to reconstruct a taxiway. Additional funding, about $5.43 million, will be used for noise mitigation. Construction firms interested in pursuing contracting opportunities should request copies of the airport’s planning document.
William P. Hobby Airport in Houston received even more in federal funding. In fact, this smaller airport has been allocated $18.1 million in grant funding for taxiway reconstruction. While there has been no timeline announcement, officials appear eager to get started.
Lubbock’s Preston Smith International Airport has announced upcoming construction projects. The city was awarded an $8.7 million federal grant for terminal improvements. Although some of the funding will be available in 2019, additional funding will flow to Lubbock between now and 2021. The funding is in addition to a $7.27 million federal grant awarded to the Lubbock airport in 2018. Construction projects will include improvements and modifications to passenger screening areas and exit points, consolidation of the baggage claim areas, HVAC/mechanical upgrades, electrical and plumbing improvements, roof replacement, PA system replacement, and aesthetic improvements to the interior and exterior areas. Officials report that the construction will be launched in two phases.
Airport infrastructure is extremely important to the state’s economic vitality. The same is true for the state’s ports, roadways, and rail systems. Texas is currently one of the hottest markets in the country. Construction firms will be in high demand for many years.