Alternative Growth

Faced with declining service from former hub carrier US Airways, Pittsburgh International Airport and the Allegheny County Airport Authority have assembled an ambitious development plan to generate aviation activity and jobs, support regional economic development, and enhance airport revenues. Here, two of the persons who have helped orchestrate the initiatives share the plan and the expectations.

In 2004, as US Airways filed for bankruptcy for a second time, air service and activity levels at Pittsburgh International fell dramatically. Addi-tionally, the number of jobs provided by the former hub carrier fell to approximately 5,000 from a peak of 9,000. The Allegheny County Airport Authority (ACAA) realized that this downturn, while painful, could set the stage for more diverse and robust airport activity.

Working with PB Aviation, it was determined that one of two planned future runways would no longer be needed. Eliminating the runway from future plans opened up 400 acres of the airport's north field. ACAA management realized that this site represented an opportunity to embark on an exciting new course of development at PIT.

Developing the Plan

The authority wanted to create a plan that would meet airport and community needs and readily attain regional consensus. The first step was to recruit a Steering Committee with members representing ACAA, air cargo, freight forwarders, the airlines, the County Economic Development group, and local developers. This Committee provided 'real world' advice and input throughout the planning process.

Following establishment of the Steering Committee, the planning process included the following steps:

  • Quantify site attributes;

  • Assess current and projected regional economic activity;

  • Evaluate air cargo trends at other airports;

  • Identify candidate uses for the site;

  • Project requirements and activity levels for candidate uses;

  • Assemble development scenarios and alternatives; and

  • Develop a recommended plan.

Following this process, ACAA completed a recommended plan that includes a wide mix of aviation and non-aviation development and needed infrastructure improvements.

North Field Amenities

The development site at Pittsburgh International is called the North Field. It is located on airport property, bordered by Clinton Road, Business Route 60, Halverson Drive, existing Cargo Areas 1, 2 and 3, and Runway 10L-28R.

The site consists of approximately 440 acres, but steep slopes, wetlands and other environmental and regulatory factors limit the developable area to about 284 acres.

The site has direct access to existing taxiways and runways. The site also has excellent roadway access from Business Route 60 via the Flaugherty Run interchange and the recently constructed International Drive interchange. Utilities are available at each end of the site.

The Recommended Plan

Over the long term, Pittsburgh International Airport will require additional air cargo facilities. The east end of the site, adjacent to existing Cargo Areas 1, 2, and 3, should be used for air cargo development. The 65-acre area reserved for air cargo would contain a 480,000-square foot warehouse, as well as a 150,000-square foot specialty cargo facility. The warehouse would be large enough to accommodate a cargo sorting facility, while the specialty cargo facility could handle unique types of cargo, including perishables such as flowers. The plan for this area also includes a large aircraft parking apron and facilities needed for cargo truck security screening.

To the west of the air cargo area, property is reserved for an Airport Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) station, as well as a corporate aviation center with an 80,000-square foot hangar and an attached terminal for private aircraft passengers. An aviation fuel facility is recommended for this area to serve the aviation activity proposed for the site. An aircraft maintenance center would also be situated in this area, including a 200,000-square foot maintenance hangar and an aircraft parking apron. These aviation uses will occupy about 41 acres.

Across the Halverson Drive extension (to the north), approximately 43 acres would be reserved for warehouse and distribution facilities. This area would be developed to provide approximately 250,000 square feet of warehouse space with appropriate truck docks, staging areas, and vehicle parking. Landscaping along the south side of Business Route 60 would provide appropriate buffering for the community.

Farther west, an aviation industrial/manufacturing land use is recommended. This 46-acre area could accommodate many different types of manufacturing in a campus setting, including aircraft and aircraft parts assembly or non-aviation manufacturing.

The recommended use of the northwest 80 acres of the site, closest to the Flaugherty Run interchange, includes flexible office space, retail facilities, a truck stop and a hotel. The flexible office space would host office or light warehouse functions with approximately 900,000 square feet of space. A retail development and truck stop at the west end of the site would be accessible from the Flaugherty Run interchange. This area would feature 24,000 square feet of retail space to meet the needs of on-site employees and visitors. In addition, a hotel is recommended for the northwest corner of the site.

Thriving Development = Strong Community

It is expected that the North Field could generate about 5,600 jobs distributed among the various land uses at full build-out (graphic, page 11). These jobs could yield a total annual payroll of $301 million to the community. The development is expected to generate 16,000 daily vehicle trips (automobile and truck) and 23,000 annual aircraft operations. Construction costs for the entire development are projected at $837 million.

The long-term positive economic benefits from the North Field development should be substantial. In addition to the payroll mentioned above, leases and rents from land and facilities could yield approximately $103 million annually to the Airport and its tenants when the property is fully developed.

ACAA has initiated an Environmental Assessment to determine the potential environmental effects of the proposed plan.

Following completion of the environmental study, the authority will be ready to capitalize on opportunities created by the volatile aviation market. ACAA has taken a major step forward with a plan for development that can benefit Pittsburgh International and the entire Pittsburgh region for decades to come.