Costs for Sea-Tac Airport Expansion Climb to $968M

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At a recent meeting of the Port of Seattle Commission, Dave Soike, the CEO, revealed that the Sea-Tac Airport expansion would climb way above its original estimated cost of $608 million.

As with many large projects like this, unexpected things always happen that drive costs skyward. However, Soike reassured the board that the costs would not rise above the $968 million figure.

Some of the higher costs have been attributed to design changes. These changes have also pushed back the completion date by eight months, from September 2019 to May 2020.

Sea-Tac Airport Expands

The design-build team of Clark Construction and SOM has been handling the airport expansion project. They are currently working on a 450,000-square foot arrivals facility located to the east of Sea-Tac’s Concourse A. In addition, a new pedestrian walkway will connect grand hall to a south satellite over an existing taxiway. To help alleviate congestion, the walkway will be built offsite, then installed during a seven-day period.

Other projects that have driven up the costs include:

  • A new outbound baggage system ($18.5 million)
  • Two international gates ($5.5 million)

The majority of funding for this project has originated from revenue bonds with $200 million being derived from an Airport Development Fund.

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Seattle’s Tight Labor Market

Another area that has slowed the project’s completion is the tight labor market in the Seattle area. There simply aren’t enough qualified electricians, framers, cable installers, concrete workers, etc. to get the job done. All airports now demand much tighter security screening measures for workers. This has also been a detriment to hiring good workers.

A few of the contractors working on the site are demanding millions of dollars in extra costs so they can hire workers that will pass the strict screening procedures. This has led to poor subcontractor participation in the project and slowed the work down.

An independent panel was convened to evaluate these issues to see if they could be resolved. This panel found that there were numerous problems between the Port Authority and the Clark-Som teams. To address these issues, the panel recommended replacing managers for both sides and this was done. Authorities are hopeful that these steps will help so work can continue on at a more rapid pace.

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The Federal Aviation Administration has provided some funding for the infrastructure improvements. However, they are unable to give the hundreds of millions of dollars that airport expansions of this type usually require.

Once the project is completed, passengers in and out of the Sea-Tac Airport will enjoy better access to main areas, faster processing, and a better overall flying experience.

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