Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport Considers Nearly $1 Billion In Projects

Published: Thursday, September 1, 2016 - 7:28pm
Updated: Thursday, September 1, 2016 - 7:30pm
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(Photo by Christina Estes-KJZZ)
Bennett says airport roads and curbs are often at capacity now and will only get worse as passenger growth is expected to increase more than 9 percent in the next five years.
Christina Estes/KJZZ
Sky Harbor reports more than 120,000 passengers arrive and depart on a typical day.

Sky Harbor officials expect the airport to be at peak capacity this Labor Day weekend, just like most holidays. They’re warning that if big projects aren’t tackled soon every day could become a "peak" day. 

During a recent city meeting, the aviation department’s director laid out the airport’s capital investment needs, focusing on two projects.

More Gates

Maybe you’ve been there – your plane arrives at Sky Harbor, you’re ready to get off, but you can’t.  

“Instead of pulling up to a gate, you go off to the side, what we refer to as a hold pen,” Aviation Director Jim Bennett said. “And you have to wait on the airplane for a gate to become available for the aircraft to taxi up to the gate.”

Bennett says Sky Harbor is seeing about 140,000 fewer flights than it did in 1990, while serving more than 8 million more passengers every year. That’s because airlines are putting more people on bigger planes. That forces airports to reconfigure gates and they lose space. Bennett wants to add eight gates at Terminal 4, but doesn’t expect to actually see all eight. 

“We are losing about one and three-quarters gates as the airlines adjust the gate layout to accommodate the new aircraft,” he said. “So the net would probably be about six additional gates.” 

The new gates would cost about $250 million dollars. Like most airport capital investments, the money would likely come from airport revenue, passenger fees and bonds, not city tax dollars.

Sky Train Expansion

The other project, extending the Sky Train, is estimated to cost about $700 million.

“Our customers are waiting on a rental car shuttle, that wait may be up to thirty minutes. And, once they get on that shuttle it may be another 10 or 20-minute trip to the rental car center,” Bennett told members of the city’s Aviation Subcommittee.

He says airport roads and curbs are often at capacity now and will only get worse as passenger growth is expected to increase more than 9 percent in the next five years. 

Bennett wants to extend the Sky Train about two miles so it will take passengers past Terminal 3, all the way to the car rental center. Subcommittee members expressed support and told him to return with a schedule and finance plan before it could be sent to the full council.

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