Cost of DFW terminal renovation project may grow by $220 million

Posted Wednesday, Sep. 04, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Renovating Dallas/Fort Worth Airport’s 39-year-old terminals may cost as much as $220 million more than anticipated, airport board members were told at a meeting on Tuesday.

Additional asbestos abatement, rising building material and labor costs and code compliance issues are creating cost overruns on the $2.3 billion terminal redevelopment program, staff members said. Board members were first warned about the growing costs in July.

DFW is in the middle of an eight-year project to overhaul Terminals A, B, C and E. Since work started in 2010, the project has been impacted by airport and airline operational changes. For example, DFW has added new carriers, such as JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines, which have expanded in Terminal E, slowing the construction schedule for that terminal.

Uncertainty surrounding the proposed merger between American Airlines and US Airways, which is being challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice, has also delayed some decision-making.

“If you look at Terminal A, section A, it may look very different in the B or C section, as the airlines understand what their operational needs are,” said Perfecto Solis, DFW’s vice president of development and engineering. “We are trying to adjust and cope with that.”

Board members noted that the project’s $37 million contingency fund is inadequate to deal with the potential cost overruns and said more debt may need to be issued to cover the costs.

“We have to be very disciplined before we approve more debt,” said board member Jeff Wentworth, a one-time Fort Worth city councilman. “We could easily be $300 to $400 million more when you look out another four or five years to complete the [terminal renovation program].”

The program was initially budgeted to cost $1.92 million. However, the airport decided to increase the scope of the project, adding a new parking garage for Terminal A that increased the budget to $2.3 billion.

So far, the airport has $1.3 billion under contract for construction and professional services and has paid $711 million to date. Under the current program budget, the airport has $1.024 billion left to commit through 2018.

The board also asked for more details on all capital projects planned for the airport, such as roadway projects and additional gates at terminals.

“We’re going to look at this thing holistically, not just [the terminal renovation program], but all of the money we’re spending here at DFW Airport as it relates to these budgetary items,” said board member Bernice Washington. “The truth is we may have to let things go.”

Additionally, the airport’s concessions committee approved a plan to expand retail and concession offerings at Terminal D. The project, estimated to cost $1 million, will remove the moving walkways in the center of Terminal D and add retail space.

“By removing the sidewalks we will be able to create some café seating for our restaurants that are located there,” said Zenola Campbell, the airport’s vice president of concession, adding the project is expected to generate about $2 million in revenue within two years of being completed.

Separately, the airport plans to transition over to its new parking system early Wednesday morning.

The move from the current parking system to the new automated system was delayed about two weeks ago as airport employees worked through last-minute issues that arose.

With its new system, the airport’s entry plazas will have fully-automated kiosks at the north and south entrances to the airport. Drivers with NTTA TollTags will be able to enter without taking a ticket while drivers without the tags will need to grab a ticket from a machine.

Upon exiting the airport, TollTag users will be able to leave through an unmanned lane while drivers with tickets who want to pay with a credit card will use an automated system to exit. The airport plans to have fewer staffed lanes for drivers paying with cash.

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

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