AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport dives into its multi-year expansion project, city leaders received updates Tuesday on key improvements in development.
Planned improvements to AUS come as the facility — with a capacity load of 15 million annual passengers — is poised to hit 22 million passengers passing through the airport in 2023.
Projects underway include the West Gate Expansion project, an initiative that broke ground on Aug. 30 and is designed to increase terminal space and add 84,500 gross square feet over three levels of space, per AUS.
AUS is also working on implementing a new baggage handling system for outbound baggage to help handle growing capacity levels. That project is poised to be complete in 2025 but will begin screening bags next year, officials said Tuesday.
The airport is also working on several infill projects to maximize space within the terminal, including adding floor space that’ll extend Checkpoint 3 from two lanes to eight lanes to support cueing within the airport.
Officials also noted planned improvements with its international arrivals, including an added baggage carousel and continued work with airline partners to improve schedule adjustments. Additional customs and border protection staff are expected to be added as part of the endeavor.
Other projects in development include restroom refreshes and accessibility improvements.
Currently, AUS officials are working with the airport’s airline partners on finalizing the scope and cost of the project. Officials said Concourse B will have up to 20 gates once completed and will connect to the Barbara Jordan Terminal via a passenger tunnel, as well as an allocated tunnel for AUS’ baggage handling system.
In terms of front-of-house upgrades, improvements will feature the removal of the existing Red Garage and the addition of expanded parking and new curbside facilities.
The last major improvements to the airport came in 2018 with the addition of nine gates, raising the airport’s capacity from 11 million to 15 million; however, at that time, the facility was already processing 17 million passengers annually.
On Thursday, Austin City Council is slated to take action on two items to help expedite the project.
One involves a potential update to the master development plan at AUS, with a proposed change to have it considered as a single site. AUS leaders said Tuesday this will provide “clarity for code reviewers.”
A second item would authorize AUS to pay for projects with cash upfront. Airport heads said these funds would be later reimbursed through revenue bonds.
“If we’re able to carry this program out, we’re talking about 10 years of construction at the airport,” said Jim Smith, interim executive director of AUS, adding, “We’re essentially building an airport bigger than the current one on top of the existing one while keeping it operating.”