Vancouver International Airport cancels plans to resume construction on new parkade and geoexchange

Sep 9 2020, 12:25 pm

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) has made a decision to cancel one of its largest infrastructure projects that would have supported future passenger growth and terminal building energy requirements.

The airport authority announced this morning that plans to complete the CORE Program, a complex with a new central utilities building, geoexchange facility for the terminal’s thermal heating and cooling needs, and ground transportation centre including a parkade expansion, have been cancelled.

Construction on this complex is located on the former site of the value long-term parking lot between the existing parkade and the Petro Canada gas station — south of the international and transborder terminal building.

The official groundbreaking on this project occurred in June 2018, and construction was halted in late March 2020 in response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

vancouver international airport new parkade geothermal exhcange core program rendering

Artistic rendering of Vancouver International Airport’s new parkade (left) and the central utilities building with the geothermal exchange (right). (Vancouver Airport Authority)

By reducing capital and future operating costs of these new facilities, YVR states this decision will conserve the airport authority’s financial resources. There was a slight rebound in air traffic and passenger volumes over the summer, but this is just 8% of what the airport normally sees this time of year. It will take several years for the global aviation industry to rebound to its pre-pandemic levels.

The complex was planned when the airport was experiencing consecutive double digit annual growth in passenger volumes.

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Artistic rendering of Vancouver International Airport’s parkade expansion and new geothermal power plant. (Vancouver Airport Authority)

YVR has spent $525 million on this particular project to date, but it can be restarted when capacity is required in the future. Several hundred million dollars more are required to complete it.

On Tuesday, the airport authority informed EllisDon Corporation, the project’s construction contractor, of the intent to terminate the CORE Program. Both parties will work together to finalize wind down arrangements with the intent that all work on the project’s current state will be finished by the end of November.

“I want to thank the hundreds of construction workers, designers, engineers and our own team members for their excellent work on the CORE Program over the past two years. Cancelling this major infrastructure project was a difficult but necessary decision. We simply do not need the capacity this project brings for the foreseeable future and need to prioritize our resources elsewhere,” said Tamara Vrooman, president and CEO of Vancouver Airport Authority, in a statement.

“I want to emphasize that making this decision is one more step in preserving the ongoing financial stability of Vancouver Airport Authority so that we can continue to serve our community and focus our resources on the immediate needs of the airport.”

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Artistic rendering of Vancouver International Airport’s new geoexchange facility. (Vancouver Airport Authority)

The airport authority indicates it entered the pandemic on a strong financial footing and continues to have one of the highest credit ratings of any North American airport. Its financial resources over the interim will focus on projects that support the recovery and restart of the travel industry, such as pilots for health screening and testing at the airport.

There will also be improvements to data and technology infrastructure, cargo facilities, and airfield infrastructure.

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Artistic rendering of Vancouver International Airport’s Pier D terminal building expansion. (Vancouver Airport Authority)

As previously announced, construction on the Pier D international terminal building resumed earlier this summer. The $300 million project was also suspended in March, but at the time it was largely complete, with an opening originally slated by the end of June.

Under the restart, this terminal expansion will now reach completion by the end of December, but it remains to be seen when it will open. There will be eight additional wide body gates, including four jet bridge gates and four remote stand operation bus gates, as well as ample new elevated food and beverage, retail, and services.

These projects were part of YVR’s $9.1 billion expansion and improvement project over 20 years. Prior to the pandemic, the airport authority had indicated it was planning an eastward expansion of the Pier F transborder terminal building for the next major phase of terminal building improvements, with construction possibly starting early this decade.

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

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