Construction begins on YVR Airport's $5.6-billion expansion

Jan 24 2018, 2:29 am

The head of the Vancouver Airport Authority says plans to expand Vancouver International Airport (YVR) are being rolled out as quickly as possible to keep up with the surge in passenger growth.

Officials with YVR now estimate the airport will hit 31 million passengers per year by 2022 – up from over 24 million last year, making its initial target of 25 million passengers by 2020 irrelevant.

Based on the current growth trajectory, the airport expects it will actually see 29 million passengers in 2020.

“This growth comes with issues,” said Craig Richmond, President and CEO of the Airport Authority, during his annual address to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade today. “I refuse to call them problems, they are growth issues. We’ve had to think of some innovative ways to get around it.”

Almost exactly one year ago, YVR revealed an ambitious $5.6-billion, 20-year expansion plan, with $1.7 billion in spending planned for the next three years including $500 million for 2018 alone.

The plan includes new wings to the terminal building, a new elevated taxiway over Grant McConachie Way, new parkade facilities, and a geothermal plant. Further details about some of these projects were announced during today’s event:

Terminal Building Pier D and F expansion

Site preparation for Pier D, the first of many phases of the major terminal building expansion, has begun. This international terminal wing – to be built west of gate 64 – will accommodate eight additional aircraft, including four gangway contact gates and four bussing gates.

Artistic rendering of the interior of the Pier D terminal building expansion at Vancouver International Airport. (Vancouver Airport Authority)

Pier D will build on the terminal building’s existing West Coast-themed interior design concept. Within the core of this new wing, there will be a ‘Gulf Island’ with real trees and vegetation next to an area with gates. While this area is sealed in by floor-to-ceiling glass, the area is not roofed – it is exposed to the elements, allowing rain and snow to come down into the centre of the terminal.

Other features include digital art and significant dining establishments and amenities.

The construction of the larger Pier F wing – an eastward expansion of the international terminal’s existing transborder area between the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel building and the current Jet Set parking lot – will follow shortly after.

Diagram of Vancouver International Airport’s planned ‘central’ expansion. (Vancouver Airport Authority)

More passengers will be bussed to planes

To supplement the terminal building’s gangway contact gate capacity, YVR will also expand its Remote Stand Operations (RSO), which is a system that involves a plane parking on the tarmac – away from the terminal building – and transporting passengers between the terminal building and the plane by special airport buses.

Special airport buses for the purpose of transporting passengers between the terminal building and an aircraft parked at a remote stand. (Shutterstock)

A large portion of the Jet Set parking lot immediately east of the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel will become a taxiway to create 10 new aircraft parking spaces for the purpose of RSO.

Richmond says this practice is common in major hub airports around the world, including Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and Singapore. It will also allow YVR to address passenger traffic growth quickly and in a more cost-effective manner, as each bus stand costs about $12 million while a new gate attached to the terminal costs approximately $50 million.

“In order to keep up, we have to do a lot of bussing,” he said. “Instead of going up stairs into the aircraft from the tarmac, you go up a slightly sloped covered ramp all the way up to the aircraft. So if you’re towing a bag, you have kids with you, or you’re in a wheelchair, it is a lot easier to go up.”

Parking changes and new geothermal plant

The RSO project will remove 2,000 parking stalls from the Jet Set parking lot. Lost parking capacity will be partially regained by implementing a valet parking system through a reconfiguration of the lot’s remaining area.

As well, the Value Lot is set for a closure on February 28 as it will be replaced by a new Central Utilities Building – consisting of a geothermal plant and four backup power generators – and a six-storey parkade, which will be an expansion of the existing parkade.

A new replacement long-term Value Lot being built next to the Canada Line’s Templeton Station will open on March 1.

Passengers parking their vehicles at the new Value Lot can take the Canada Line to the airport terminal from Templeton Station, as the Canada Line doubles as an airport people mover. Train travel within Sea Island and its three stations is free.

For off-hours, a shuttle bus service will operate between the new Value Lot and the terminal building.

Light blue – existing parkade; green – existing Value Lot; orange – existing Jet Set parking lot; dark blue – new Value Lot opening March 2018 (Vancouver Airport Authority)

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