DFW board warned of cost overruns on terminal project

Posted Tuesday, Jul. 30, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Dallas/Fort Worth Airport is looking at possible cost overruns on its $2.3 billion terminal renovation project.

At the airport board’s operations committee meeting Tuesday, board member Bernice Washington said there may be “substantial overruns” on the project, for Terminals A, B, C and E.

“We have what we consider some potential challenges and we want the whole board to be aware of these challenges,” said Washington, adding that a full report will be made to the board in September.

Washington, who sits on a committee that oversees the renovation project, did not specify the size of the overruns but cited three factors.

• Building material costs have increased significantly since the project started two years ago.

• The airport has found more asbestos in Terminal B than expected, which could add $52 million.

• The pending merger of US Airways and the airport’s largest tenant, American Airlines, is causing construction delays. The airport staff issued an order Tuesday to stop work on the ticketing area under construction in Terminal A because of a “lack of precision on proposed changes from American,” Washington said.

“They are in flux because they are coming out of bankruptcy with new leadership … which is causing some substantial delays on making decisions for us,” she said.

The airport has $1.25 billion in contract commitments for the seven-year project. The first renovated section of Terminal A opened this year, and the rest of the terminal had been expected to be completed by late next year.

Separately, board members were briefed on staffing problems at Terminal D’s customs area, related to federal budget cuts. They have led to long waits for international passengers.

On July 22, some passengers waited more than three hours to get through customs. On that day, 93 international flights with 10,518 passengers moved through the airport.

Although Terminal D has 60 immigration lanes, U.S. Customs and Border Protection had an average of 23 agents on staff and only 10 at the lowest staffing point of the day.

“This is by far the worst day we’ve had since we moved into Terminal D,” said Byford Treanor, vice president of customer service for the airport, adding that about 4,111 passengers waited over 60 minutes to clear customs.

DFW has the longest average customs wait at major airports, at 28 minutes, according to the Customs and Border Protection website. And during peak times, DFW has the second-longest average wait, 69 minutes, behind only Kennedy Airport in New York, at 83 minutes.

The airport said it has been lobbying local congressional leaders to fund more customs agents and has been marketing the Global Entry program. It also plans to unveil 30 automated passport control kiosks in November to help reduce waits by allowing U.S. passengers to enter their own answers to customs questions before reaching an agent.

“This summer we’ve had significant growth in international service and if you go back to 2009, we have averaged over a 29 percent increase in passengers and zero growth in officers. So that hits on the issue we have in customs,” Treanor said.

Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631 Twitter: @Sky_Talk

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