Article

Arizona Sky Harbor Taxiway Project

This grant helps fund a project to connect Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport’s north and south airfields, improving air traffic flow and eliminating the need for a fourth runway that would take up more land.

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Photo shows an American Airlines plane taking off against a dry mountain background
A plane takes off at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Arizona in June 2021. (Getty/Caitlin O'Hara)
Snapshot
  • Project name: Sky Harbor Taxiway Project

  • Program: Airport Infrastructure Grants

  • Law: Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

  • Recipient: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

  • Investment amount: $41,016,084

  • City: Phoenix

  • State: Arizona

  • Congressional districts: 3 and 4

  • Construction start date: 2023

  • Jobs created: 3,000

This profile is part of a project that finds and tracks the public and private sector investments generated or supported by three of the Biden administration’s economic laws. These laws make investments in the American people, helping to grow the middle class, lowering the cost of living, and setting up America to better compete and cooperate in the world. Pulling directly from several sources, this catalog provides users with publicly available information such as the number of jobs created, workforce training partnerships, and storytellers benefiting from particular projects, among other detailed information. The profile below expands on the economic, practical, and climate impacts of just one of the 35,000 investments that can be found in the Biden Administration Investment Tracker. It may be updated to account for future project developments.

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More than $41 million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will support the construction of a taxiway overpass at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The new overpass will help meet demand and improve passenger experience by cutting down on “taxi time.” The investment will create 3,000 construction jobs and enable the airport to be more flexible and adapt during bad weather to keep more planes safely in the air.

Historical context

The Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is increasingly one of the busiest airports in both the United States and the world, and it has been expanding in response to growth:

  • “Sky Harbor was the ninth busiest airport for travelers in the U.S. in 2021, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. It was also the eighth in the world in combined takeoffs and landings in the same year, according to the Airports Council International. Sky Harbor’s website says it has experienced a 20% increase in total passengers from August 2021 to August 2022.” – Cronkite News, October 4, 2022
  • “Responding to that growth, the airport recently saw the completion of the final concourse at Terminal 4, a $310 million project providing an abundance of new retail space, as well as a 24,000 square foot transfer bridge.” – Construction Reporter, October 14, 2022

Project summary

The award will fund a project to connect the airport’s north and south airfields:

  • “Sky Harbor International Airport is planning upgrades to its runway space with a new taxiway overpass. … The 2,000-foot-long taxiway will pass over roads between terminals and connect the north and south airfields, which are bisected by airport roads and terminals.” – Cronkite News, October 4, 2022
  • “Sky Harbor will receive $194 million in federal funding over five years to build a 2,000-foot taxiway. … Airport taxiways are paths for planes to get to and from runways.” – AZCentral, October 5, 2022

Outcomes, improvements, and practical impact

Adding this new taxiway overpass will improve the flow of air traffic through the airport, thereby improving passenger experience and meeting increased consumer demand:

  • “Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said the goal of the overpass is to allow traffic on runways to flow more smoothly so planes don’t get stuck on the tarmac.” – Cronkite News, October 4, 2022
  • “It’s expected to improve the flow of aircraft once completed, enhancing the customer experience and possibly translating to current and future carriers expanding their flight capacity. … This will cut down on ‘taxi time,’ or the time fliers spend on the tarmac waiting for the plane to take off and waiting to get off the plane upon landing. … Connecting the north and south airfields would help Sky Harbor operate like an airport with four runways even though it currently has three runways.” – AZCentral, October 5, 2022

The proposed setup will also allow Sky Harbor to expand its capacity without constructing a fourth runway that would take up more land in an already land-sparse area:

  • “The airport’s location just 5 miles from downtown Phoenix is its biggest plus, but it also makes expansion difficult. … ‘One of the very best qualities and most significant competitive advantages of Sky Harbor is that it’s right at the very center of our region right next to downtown, but that also means that land is a little bit scarce. … Instead of growing larger, we have to grow smarter.’” – Cronkite News, October 4, 2022
  • “Connecting the north and south airfields would help Sky Harbor operate like an airport with four runways even though it currently has three runways. … The connection will improve efficiency in part by operating on Sky Harbor’s existing grounds, rather than developing elsewhere.” – AZCentral, October 5, 2022

Climate impact

The climate impacts of this project will be minimal. However, updates to Sky Harbor— which is already one of the most sustainable airports in the United States—and its infrastructure will allow the airport to better adapt to climate change-caused weather concerns: 

  • “Since 2010, Phoenix Sky Harbor has reduced annual carbon emissions by 34% through energy conservation measures (ECMs) and on-site renewable energy and other initiatives despite growth and expansion. Some examples include reducing electricity usage by 17% and focusing on solar power by adding panels at our Rental Car Center, East Economy Parking areas, and, most recently, at the Aviation Headquarters Building.” – City of Phoenix, September 20, 2022
  • “The increased tarmac space will help the airport adapt more easily to inclement weather.” – Cronkite News, October 4, 2022

Economic impact

The project will create thousands of temporary construction jobs, many of them union positions, while also increasing the capacity and economic impact of Sky Harbor:

  • “U.S. infrastructure coordinator Mitch Landrieu said the project will create about 3,000 temporary jobs, many of which will be union carpenters, and that union workers hit ‘every mark’ that the infrastructure law requires. ‘The funding from this law is a new taxiway right next to us, built by union carpenters to support our community and the travelers that come in and out of this airport every day,’ said Fabian Sandez of the Carpenters Local 1912. ‘This project will bring good paying jobs, wages and benefits to members and their families.’” – Cronkite News, October 4, 2022
  • The airport generates $14.4 billion in on-airport activities and another $6.6 billion in visitor spending each year, in addition to supporting 303,699 full- and part-time jobs, which generate $15.9 billion in wages and benefits. The total economic activity generated by the airport is $45.1 billion. – ADOT Aeronautics Group, last accessed April 2023

Official supporting statements

  • Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego (D): “‘Your planes are likely to take off more quickly, and you’ll spend less time on the tarmac both landing and taking off. … When we have tough storms, like the one we did last night, having a bigger, better tarmac will allow us to adapt and have more ability to keep planes flying. This is a very exciting project for us. … With traffic quickly rebounding to pre-pandemic levels, and nearly $6 billion of unmet infrastructure needs at Sky Harbor alone … many more improvements are necessary to keep up with our passenger growth and demand.’” – Cronkite News, October 4, 2022
  • Mayor Gallego: “This airfield project is another step in connecting Phoenix to the world. As one of the first projects for the city identified for delivery under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this new taxiway will reduce aircraft taxi time, improve utilization of all runways, and add capacity for our airline partners. … Infrastructure investments like this make our city even more attractive to the global aviation industry, including travelers using Sky Harbor.” – KTAR News, April 25, 2022
  • U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego (R-AZ): “Thanks to the leadership of President Biden and Congress, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law once again delivers for Arizonans. Phoenix Sky Harbor is a critical aviation hub, connecting Phoenix to the rest of the United States and the world and enabling people from everywhere to come experience our great state. However, as our state has grown, so has the strain on our aviation infrastructure. I’m proud to announce this win which kicks off an important project to ensure our airport can meet the demands of tomorrow.” – Office of Rep. Ruben Gallego, July 27, 2022

Selected clips

  • “Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport to build new taxiway” – FOX10, October 4, 2022
  • “Phoenix Sky Harbor using federal infrastructure funds for new taxiway, FAA launches flight path study” – ABC15 Arizona, May 6, 2022

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.

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