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Airport makeover results encouraging to Pittsburgh

Tom Fontaine
| Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, 9:50 p.m.
Mineta San Jose International Airport
Fentress Architects
Mineta San Jose International Airport
Indianapolis International Airport
Indianapolis International Airport
Indianapolis International Airport

Updated 2 hours ago

Two airports that underwent makeovers comparable to the $1.1 billion project that Allegheny County Airport Authority officials are considering saw traffic and their local economies grow after their new terminals opened.

“For us, it was an example of, ‘If you build it, they will come,' ” said Rosemary Barnes, spokeswoman for Mineta San Jose (Calif.) International Airport.

When local officials announced plans for the $1.1 billion project at Pittsburgh International Airport, they pointed to San Jose and Indianapolis International Airport as two facilities that recently completed large-scale modernization projects. They said other major projects were being designed or under construction at several other domestic airports, including ones in New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville and Kansas City.

San Jose completed its project during the grips of the Great Recession in 2010. Traffic hovered around 8 million passengers a year then. Now it's approaching 12 million, Barnes said.

It hasn't hurt that the Great Recession ended or that San Jose's airport is within close proximity to Silicon Valley. Barnes says 6,600 high-tech companies are within 18 miles of the airport, including giants such as Google.

But Barnes said the airport improvements helped encourage more passengers and airlines to use San Jose, which is the third-largest airport in a region that includes San Francisco International and Oakland International. San Francisco had 53.1 million passengers last year, while Oakland had 12.1 million, records show.

“Our goal is to get back in the No. 2 spot,” Barnes said.

As for Pittsburgh's proposed project, Barnes said, “Airports need to reinvest in themselves.”

More than 8.5 million passengers used Indianapolis International Airport last year, the highest annual total since a $1.1 billion terminal opened there in 2008.

In March, after Indianapolis was named North America's top mid-sized airport by Airports Council International World, Indianapolis Airport Authority Executive Director Mario Rodriguez said he believes the airport brings enormous public value to passengers, local communities and the state.

“We have a beautiful and well-run facility, and a staff that provides an excellent experience for the more than 8.5 million passengers traveling through Indy each year. That, combined, contributes to an annual economic impact of $5.4 billion, and that's a strong measure of the value the airport delivers to Central Indiana,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7847, tfontaine@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @FontainePGH.

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