Twenty-five years ago, Colorado celebrated the opening of Denver International Airport (DEN), a state-of-the-art airport designed to permit incremental growth, as needed. At the beginning of 2020, before the pandemic struck, we were busting at the seams and in great need of more capacity and other improvements.
In 2019, DEN served more than 69 million passengers in a terminal built for 50 million and much of the space in the Great Hall of the Terminal is used for TSA, which did not even exist in 1995. Even with a significant dip in passenger traffic as a result of pandemic, DEN fully expects to return to and exceed 2019 passenger numbers in the near future. As a result, it is essential that we continue to protect the state’s number one economic engine by investing in the future. We are doing just that with the Concourse Expansion Program and the Great Hall Project.
As you may know, we recently hit a major milestone of the Gate Expansion Program by opening the first four new gates on B-west. Similarly, we are on track to hit a major milestone of the Great Hall Project by the end of 2021 with the completion of Phase 1. When Phase 1 wraps up, there will be a new modern airline check-in space for United Airlines and Southwest Airlines with self-bag drops to expedite the check-in process. There will also be four new restrooms and more square footage to improve passenger flow on Level 6.
This first phase is just one step in creating the final vision for the Great Hall. While the project has had its share of challenges, significant advancement has been made over the last year since DEN took over the project. We hired a new contractor, made substantial progress with construction and have maintained our commitments of staying within the original $770 million budget while also increasing transparency of the project. The project is back on track.
As construction of Phase 1 continues, we are also focused on the next steps of this critical project. As you may recall, the original goals of the project were to enhance security, increase capacity, improve operational efficiency and enhance the customer experience. As we look to the design of Phase 2, DEN remains committed to these goals.
After working collaboratively for months with our airlines, TSA and other stakeholders to refine the scope of the project, today we began the process of seeking approval from Denver City Council to move forward with the next phase of the project. Here are some of the key features of proposal:
- Relocates the south security checkpoint from Level 5 to Level 6 west (overlooking the north security checkpoint on Level 5) and adds five security lanes with the ability to install more efficient technology
- Maintains the north security on Level 5 with improvements such as taller walls and enhanced security equipment to decrease vulnerability
- Maintains A-bridge security to support overall capacity
- Creates opportunity to activate the vacant south security space on Level 5 with new concessions and improved meeter/greeter area
Although this project has been scaled back and isn’t exactly the same as what we originally planned, we have worked diligently to develop a quality project within the $770 million budget that meets the needs of our airlines and still accomplishes our project goals of:
- Increasing safety and security
- Improving operational efficiency and passenger flow and enhancing the passenger experience
- Increasing capacity to accommodate future growth
It also gives us the flexibility to make future improvements in the Great Hall as we continue to grow and the aviation industry changes, as it does frequently. We will still have new shops and food options, just not to the scale that was originally proposed.
If approved by Denver City Council in December, we hope to have a contract in early January 2021 with construction of Phase 2 beginning in the summer of 2021. The new Level 6 checkpoint in Phase 2 will be complete by the end of 2023, with the remaining portions of phase 2 completing by mid-2024.
With these changes, we are confident that we will still deliver an exceptional project that will allow DEN to prepare for a future – a future where airlines continue to grow and add flights, retail and restaurant owners thrive and passengers enjoy an efficient and safer airport.