Airport Business 2023 Project of the Year: Hartford/BDL ConRAC P3 Development

Feb. 15, 2023
Bradley International Airport’s new consolidated rental car facility (ConRAC) and ground transportation center introduced a state-of-the-art landside aviation facility at the airport’s front door.
Peter Brown
Qta Twilight

Bradley International Airport’s (BDL) new consolidated rental car facility (ConRAC) and ground transportation center (GTC) introduced a state-of-the-art landside aviation facility at the Airport’s front door. The 20-acre site and 1.5 million square feet are comprised of three distinct and connected buildings, a Quick-Turnaround (QTA) garage, a Ready/Return garage and a Vertical Circulation Core.

The five-story QTA garage consists of facilities to clean and maintain rental car fleets. It houses carwashes, maintenance bays, fueling and vacuum positions, administration offices, and support/storage spaces. The five-story Ready/Return garage allows customers to rent and return vehicles adjacent to the airport terminal. The first level houses public parking, extending BDL’s existing public parking garage to meet the needs of the traveling public. The four-story core provides a direct connection to Terminal A via an elevated pedestrian bridge and allows travelers to convey vertically to one of the nine rental car brands or public parking/ground transportation. This core is also designed for a connection to a future Terminal B, making this new facility the central focus of the airport’s landside operation. Previously, the existing rental car lots were dispersed around the airport, requiring rental car companies to operate shuttle buses to/from the Terminal. By consolidating operations and combining with public parking and ground transportation, the multi-modal facility has vastly improved the customer experience and helped mitigate curbside congestion in front of the terminal, eliminating an estimated 250,000+ shuttle trips per year.

The new ConRAC’s program development was a response to evolving design trends and was sized to meet future growth needs of the industry. The creation of a multi-level core helped to minimize the overall facility footprint, leading to a compact and efficient project, serving as a prototype for future airport facilities.

“With the construction of the Ground Transportation Center, we have introduced a facility that is making travel easier,” said Bob Bruno, Connecticut Airport Authority Director of Planning, Engineering and Environmental. “Since the opening, it has streamlined the entire rental car operations under one roof while offering rental car users convenient access from our main terminal. Additionally, it has eliminated a significant amount of shuttle movement and congestion, making for an overall more efficient and welcoming travel experience.  Our passengers are also benefiting from the additional parking, which has quickly gained in popularity given its close proximity to the main terminal.”

By right-sizing and stacking the facility vertically, a large design challenge was overcome. The site, bounded on all sides with significant cross-slope, required careful planning to meet the facility program while maintaining the airport’s masterplan for future expansion, new terminal development, future public parking garage and an expanded ground transportation center. Stepping the buildings to follow the natural slope minimized cut/fill and saved significant costs. Another critical challenge the design-build team faced was the schedule. The decision to construct the project out of precast concrete, coupled with a fast-track design-build approach saved 12 months in construction. The team’s focus on sustainability was realized through the design and construction processes, meeting local and state measures, by implementing items such as: environmentally friendly products and reclaiming 85% of water in the carwashes, LED lighting with daylight harvesting and motion sensors, low water-flow fixtures, high-efficiency HVAC systems and the elimination of gas-powered shuttles. Over 50 electric vehicle charging stations have been added, with plans for future growth as the market develops.

“We are extremely grateful to receive this coveted recognition,” said Kevin A. Dillon, A.A.E., Connecticut Airport Authority Executive Director. “The Bradley International Airport Ground Transportation Center has been one of our most important and complex initiatives. The introduction of this state-of-the-art facility has allowed us to reimagine the entire airport footprint, transform the passenger experience and create a new welcoming environment. It has also set the bar high for our ambitious future and the continued growth we envision for Bradley International Airport.  This endeavor would have not been possible without our partners and the hundreds of individuals who worked on this project. We extend our gratitude to everyone who has played a role in turning our vision into reality. Collectively, we can be proud to have introduced a facility that millions of passengers will benefit from in the future.”

The success of the project was multi-faceted: managing a large team took a tremendous effort, collaborating with contractors, and engaging with multiple stakeholders to maintain expectations (Developer, Airport, Rental Car Agencies) were all vital to the success of the project’s delivery.

"Like all large aviation projects, it takes a huge team and a huge effort. Consensus building is critical, as is making decisions early on, then sticking with them," said Jeff Weiner PGAL Executive Vice President. "This was certainly the case with the BDL ConRAC project, and was key in the delivery of this successful project in an ever-changing airport environment. All those involved are to be congratulated!”