Center for American Progress

Pittsburgh International Airport Terminal Modernization Program

Pittsburgh International Airport Terminal Modernization Program

A grant from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will help modernize the aging and inconvenient terminals at the Pittsburgh International Airport.

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Jets are parked on runway 28 at Pittsburgh International Airport on March 27, 2020. (Getty/Jeff Swensen)
  • Project name: Pittsburgh International Airport Terminal Modernization Program

  • Program: Airport Terminal Program

  • Law: Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

  • Recipient: Pittsburgh International Airport

  • Investment amount: $20,000,000

  • City: Pittsburgh

  • State: Pennsylvania

  • Congressional district: 17

  • Construction start date: 2021

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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A $20 million grant from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—also known as the bipartisan infrastructure law—will help complete the project to modernize and consolidate Pittsburgh International Airport’s (PIT) multiple terminals into a single terminal that will improve ease of travel for millions of passengers and reduce delays. The new terminal will be LEED-certified and partially powered by a solar microgrid, and much of the waste from the old terminal will be used to construct the new one. The project will create “more than 7,800 design and construction jobs.”

Historical context

The Pittsburgh Airport, which opened in 1952, experienced a dip in traffic after US Airways closed its hub at the airport. Since 2017, the airport has been planning to build a brand-new terminal next to the existing one:

  • “The airport, initially christened as Greater Pittsburgh Airport and later renamed as Greater Pittsburgh International Airport, opened on 31 May 1952 and the first flight was on 3 June 1952. … In 2001, the airport had its busiest month, but the September 11 attacks caused US Air to file for bankruptcy in 2002. US Air slashed jobs and canceled its leases in 2003 and 2004, while reducing operations at Pittsburgh and ceasing flights to Europe. The airline closed the Concourse E on the Landside Terminal and a portion of Concourse A on the Airside Terminal by the end of the decade. … In September 2017, the Airport Authority of Allegheny County revealed a $1.1 billion strategy to revamp and restructure the terminal complex, which included a new landside terminal and a parking garage. Under the proposal, the existing landside building would be demolished if a different use was not found and the amount of gates would be limited from 75 to 51.” – Pittsburgh Beautiful, last accessed April 2023
  • “The existing terminal has presented some challenges for daily upkeep, such as the required maintenance of the underground rail system, which prompted the airport to start considering some new options for the decades-old facility.” – The Times, March 14, 2023

The airport is a critical transportation hub for Pittsburgh and surrounding areas:

  • “Located 10 miles west of downtown, Pittsburgh Airport is the primary international airport serving Greater Pittsburgh as well as Ohio and West Virginia.” – Airport Technology, November 30, 2021

Project summary

$20 million in funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law will support the multiyear, $1.4 billion project to consolidate PIT’s multiple terminals into a single terminal that will improve ease of travel through the airport and passenger experience:

  • “A $1.4 billion project to build a new terminal at Pittsburgh International Airport is on pace to be completed on schedule by early 2025. …The biggest difference between the new terminal and the existing one is the new one will be positioned right up against the gates. Now passengers shuttle between the existing landside and airside terminals to get to the gates. … A five-level parking garage will be built next to the new terminal. It will have 3,300 public parking spaces and 900 spaces for car rental companies. Most of the parking will be covered, Hoback said. The existing garage has 1,500 spaces. … When the new terminal is completed, the tram that carries passengers between the airside and landside terminals will be eliminated. … The new terminal will include open spaces, inside and outside, with native vegetation and seating. … The new terminal will have 11 security lanes, which is about double the current number. … This should help with security line backups that often happen in the mornings.” – Trib Live, September 28, 2022
  • “The design of the new terminal is technology and public health centric, which will see the new terminal including clean air technology in the form of ventilation systems, large areas to allow for social distancing and a 90,000 square foot outdoor terrace area. The terminal has been designed as an elevated, three tier structure which will include a natural wood ceiling, and multi-level glass windows which have been specifically selected to allow in as much natural light for passengers as possible. … With technology being the second key focus area for the new terminal the airport will focus on technology to streamline passenger processing operations. Ticketing, security checkpoints, baggage claim and more will be a simple, consolidated process using technology to improve the passenger experience. The terminal itself has been designed to reduce passenger travel and processing time by 50% from drop off to airside.” – Airport Technology, November 30, 2021

Outcomes, improvements, and practical impact

The new terminal will allow PIT to meet increasing demand and provide better value to the community it serves:

  • “The development of the new terminal has been founded on the principles of the Pittsburgh Airport Terminal Modernization Program: Stabilizing airline costs, be Pittsburgh’s airport, be environmentally sustainable, enhance the experience for all customers and provide value to the community. … With the airport seeing over 3,649,270 passengers pass through the terminal in 2020, modernization upgrades will allow for a new and improved passenger experience. At present the passenger flow at the airport has been called ‘inefficient’ due to several drop off points, three floors to navigate, and multiple TSA checkpoints which make the trip to the boarding gate a difficult process.” – Airport Technology, November 30, 2021
  • The last time the airport was renovated—in the 1990s—it was “designed largely in accordance with US Airways’ requirements,” but officials have “stressed that the renovation will make the airport more suited to Pittsburgh, instead of US Airways.” – Pittsburgh Beautiful, last accessed April 2023

Climate impact 

The design of the new airport terminal is eco-focused and incorporates renewable energy sources, although the airport will still be powered in part by natural gas:

  • “With airport terminals around the globe producing large amounts of CO2 and other harmful emissions due to the running of lights, generators and other fossil fuel burning appliances, the airport has taken the environment into consideration within the design. The new terminal will be powered by a microgrid which is fueled by 10,000 solar panels as well as five natural gas generators. The design of the new terminal has been named among the most sustainable in the industry, with officials building to a standard of LEED-certified (a globally recognized symbol of sustainability and achievement) silver and upwards. The airport has also stated that during construction a minimum of 75% of waste produced – including concrete – will be recycled or reused where possible.” – Airport Technology, November 30, 2021
  • Parts of the old terminal that are being demolished, including “the 74,000 tons of concrete removed to make way for the new terminal will be reused, including for filling the new terminal’s large columns as a fire-proofing measure.” – Trib Live, September 28, 2022

Economic impact

The process of building the new PIT terminal itself is bolstering the local economy, and the new terminal will allow PIT to continue contributing to strengthening tourism and other industries in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas:

  • “More than 80% of the work is being done by local firms. All of the steel being used for the project is being produced domestically and will be fabricated at Sippel Steel in Ambridge.” – Trib Live, September 28, 2022
  • Constructing the new terminal will create “14,300 direct and indirect jobs … more than 7,800 direct temporary design and constructions jobs, including 563 jobs in the pre-construction design phase and 5,548 jobs during the construction phase … and indirect creation of more than 6,500 temporary spin-off jobs in the region.” – Terminal Modernization Program, last accessed April 2023
  • Some of the work will be done with union trade contractors: “Program construction will start June 2021 with completion set for January 2025. It is expected that 35-45 union trade contractors will employ approximately 1500-2000 craft persons at peak construction.” – U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, last accessed June 2023
  • “The TMP will deliver long-term economic benefits to the airport and the region, including: Generating approximately $2.5 billion in economic activity; $1 billion in direct labor income (2021 values); $700 million (2021 values) in gross regional product/value for the region; Generating more than $27 million in state and local income tax; Extending the life of the facility by 40 years.” – Terminal Modernization Program, last accessed April 2023

Official supporting statements

  • Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald: “It’s investing in the future. It’s showing that Pittsburgh’s future is very bright, and it comes on the heels of a month-or-so ago when we found out that we’re growing again in population for the first time in 60 years. We’re becoming a more diverse and a more open county, and we’re bringing people in from all over the country and all over the world.” – Trib Live, October 14, 2021

Selected clips

  • “$3.5M federal infrastructure grant arrives at Pittsburgh International Airport for terminal project” – Pittsburgh Business Times, March 7, 2023
  • “Pittsburgh International Airport awarded more than $20 million for terminal project” – CBS News Pittsburgh, March 1, 2023

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