One of America’s premier airports is set to undergo a $2.6-billion transformation.
United Airlines and the Houston Airport System recently announced the Terminal B Transformation Program for Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Work on the project will be completed by both Clark Construction Group and Manhattan Construction Co., according to an article by Engineering News-Record. Clark will build an arrival and departures hall, while Manhattan will construct the new concourses. Siemens will also add a new baggage handling system.
When completed, the project will add 40 gates for domestic and international travel to the airport which, in 2020, received the highest ranking among U.S. airports in the World’s Top 100 Airports category and placed as second-best airport in North America.
Construction is expected to involve about 4,000 jobs, and will see a new three-level, 765,000-sq-ft north concourse constructed at Terminal B with 22 narrow-body gates. Additionally, 30 gates at the south concourse that currently house small regional jets will be transformed into 18 gates that can accommodate larger aircraft.
United Airlines will provide most of the funding for the project, but the Houston City Council did agree to provide $624 million to support the endeavor, according to the Houston Chronicle.
“This is a milestone project that will provide great economic opportunities for local Houston businesses,” Manhattan Construction Vice President Jason Fuller told ENR.
Originally called Houston Intercontinental Airport when it opened in June 1969, George Bush Intercontinental Airport was rechristened in 1997 when Houston City Council unanimously voted to rename it after George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States and a Houston native who has since passed away.
The airport offered just two terminals when it opened in 1969. It boasts five terminals today, supporting 26 airlines and 187 non-stop destinations.
Phil Griffith, United Airlines’ Vice President of George Bush Intercontinental Airport, said in a statement that the planned expansion will help United “continue to do all we can to serve our customers flying to, from and through our hub on more than 400 flights each day.”
The expansion and renovation of “Bush Airport” comes at a time when America’s aviation infrastructure is facing considerable challenges.
Explaining the Need for Improved U.S. Aviation Infrastructure
In the two years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, passenger travel steadily increased from 964.7 million to 1.2 billion per year, yet flight service only increased from 9.7 to 10.2 million flights per year – contributing in part to a total of nearly 96 million delay minutes for airline passengers in 2019, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).
In its most recent Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the ASCE gave America’s aviation infrastructure a D+, citing a significant funding shortfall and substantial investments needed to bring this infrastructure up to speed.
Terminal buildings were the area of airport infrastructure in most need of significant investment, according to the ASCE’s findings.
Improvements are being made, as evidenced by United Airlines’ investment in Bush Airport as well as federally funded aviation infrastructure projects nationwide.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in 2021 provides $15 billion in airport infrastructure funding, which can be invested in runways, taxiways, terminal, airport-transit connections and roadway, and safety and sustainability projects. Since 2022, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has made $2.89 billion available annually to U.S. airports.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How do experts rank the overall state of the United States’ infrastructure?
In its most recent American Infrastructure Report Card, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the United States’ infrastructure an overall grade of C-. Out of the 18 categories of infrastructure they evaluated, only two (rail and ports) received a grade of B- or better while 12 received grades of D+ or worse.
What is the infrastructure spending bill?
Signed by President Biden in 2021, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) directs $1.2 trillion of federal funds towards transportation, energy, and climate infrastructure projects. State and local governments received the bulk of this funding to then allocate to projects under their jurisdiction.