The city and US Airways have reached a two-year lease agreement that will result in $734 million in investments for a number of improvements at Philadelphia International Airport; the first step in a controversial $6.4 billion expansion.
“We have reached agreement on the near term completion of projects critical to the continued improvement of US Airways operations and customer service at PHL as well as a playbook for pursuing the long term development of the airport,” said Doug Parker, US Airways Chairman and CEO.
The statement outlining the agreement, which runs through June 30, 2015, was released Tuesday.
Plans include a longer runway, a redesign of Terminals B and C, an automated baggage system and passenger security areas. It is all part of broader expansion plans but includes projects that have not generated the controversy that several aspects of the plan have generated.
Overall plans were approved earlier this month by the FAA.
Under the terms reached this week, Runway 9L-27R will be lengthened by 1,500 feet, increasing its total length to 12,000 feet. That would provide the capacity to accommodate large, long-haul aircraft flying to any point on the globe. Other airfield improvements include new taxiway/aircraft holding bays/apron to better queue for departure.
The ticketing area in Terminals B and C will be redesigned to include a new, automated baggage handling and screening system and a new, more spacious, centralized passenger security screening checkpoint. The agreement also calls for improvements to other existing airport infrastructure projects to include security upgrades, roof and window replacements, escalator upgrades, airport restrooms, roadways, concession programs and flight information display systems.
A new rental car facility with surface lots and an automated people-mover system between concourses that will make it easier for passengers to connect to other flights is also part of the plan.
“Our airline carriers are vitally important partners in our mission to sustain and fuel the economic engine of the entire Philadelphia region,” said Mayor Michael Nutter, in a statement. “We share a mutual goal of increasing the region’s connectivity and significance in the global marketplace. This agreement facilitates the continuation of our partnership to move forward with the projects that are crucial to the airport and the region.”
Ultimately, the expansion includes plans to lengthen another runway and building a fifth runway along the Delaware River which relocating a facility owned by United Parcel Service, which would be moved to the airport’s west side, after the demolition of 72 houses in adjacent Tinicum Township. That portion of the plan has raised opposition from Tinicum Township residents as well as from U.S. Airways officials who are worried about the cost.
If it proceeds as scheduled, the project is expected to be completed in 2025.
Roughly 30 million passengers pour through the airport’s terminals each year. That number is expected to double to 60 million by 2030.