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Expansion plans are a balancing act for Seattle-Tacoma International

The Port of Seattle has created a Sustainable Airport Master Plan (SAMP) to tackle the unprecedented long-term growth at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac). The airport handled 37.5 million passengers in 2014, a 7.5% increase over the previous year, and numbers have been forecast to reach 66 million by 2035.

The authority has already put in place two projects to expand the International Arrivals Facility (IAF) and renovate the North Satellite building, which will provide some extra capacity by the projected 2019 and 2020 completion dates. But in order to accommodate long-term growth, the 20-year SAMP needed to incorporate serious structural changes while maintaining sustainability.

“It’s important that we took the decision to integrate sustainability into this masterplan,” says Elizabeth Leavitt, planning and environmental management director at the Port of Seattle. “It’s important to the people in this region that we do things sustainably, but I think that some of the decisions that we’re going to have to make are to what extent we continue to try to use existing facilities versus constructing new ones, and how we balance that from a sustainability perspective. We want to get the most life out of existing facilities but a some point you have to realize that it’s time to build more energy-efficient terminals.”

Right: Rendering of the proposed International Arrivals Facility

Based on these principles, SAMP takes an encompassing view of the construction of the airport and offers alternative suggestions regarding the most sustainable options. This includes efficiency in planning, leading to a reduction in aircraft taxi times and convenient ground access for passengers. This in turn reduces fuel consumption and carbon emissions. Other suggestions include different approaches to reshaping and expanding the terminal to achieve the desired capacity.

Leavitt adds, “To get the additional 35 gates we need by 2034, we’re going to have to expand the terminal to the south to support growth in international wide body aircraft, as well as to the north for domestic narrow body capacity.

“There are two options to the south, each with pros and cons, but to get them built we’re going to have to find new locations to build alternative maintenance facilities and cargo hangars.

“To the north the story is the same. We have options for a long extension to the north satellite or for a north pier concept. But underneath those footprints are our facilities for aircraft rescue and fire fighting, cargo and airport maintenance, so we’re going to have to figure out how to phase in these additional gates while relocating the facilities that are underneath them.”

Timing and organization are key to the project as the Port of Seattle wants to create a finely balanced plan that is not only approved by the local and regional community, but also meets the needs of the growing number of passengers using the airport.

“We’re spending a lot of time thinking about how we’re going to meet the challenge of rapid growth in the near term and how we meet the needs of the traveling public in this interim period,” explains Leavitt. “We want to deliver a plan that doesn’t under build and doesn’t over build, that takes into account the economics that keep the Seattle market growing, yet doesn’t leave a poor level of customer service. Doing this in the most cost-effective way is going to be important to the airline and the airport’s continued economic strength.”

To learn more about SeaTac's expansion plans, be sure to register for the Passenger Terminal Conference, where Wayne Grotheer, director, Aviation Project Management Group - Port of Seattle, will present a paper entitled 'Building for growth when your two largest carriers need facilities' as part of the Design, Planning & Development session on Tuesday March 10. Click here to see the full program.

North Satellite design rendering courtesy of LeighFisher

February 6, 2015



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