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Airport Improvement: Seattle-Tacoma Int’l Upgrades Facilities With Multibillion-Dollar Capital Campaign

4-5-2023 | News

Author: Jodi Richards
Published in: March-April2023

By many measures, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) has been one of the fastest-growing airports in the United States for more than a decade. In 2019, SEA served more than 51 million passengers. While that number dipped at the height of the COVID pandemic, traffic is coming back fast and furious with no sign of slowing. In 2022, the Pacific Northwest airport processed nearly 46 million passengers.

“We’re seeing tremendous growth taking place in the region,” reports Managing Director Lance Lyttle. And that growth directly translates to increased demand at SEA.

As air traffic returns, facilities are strained and the airport’s enduring goal of delivering a top-notch passenger experience is challenged. “We have an obligation, a duty, to make sure we build and maintain facilities to keep pace with that growth,” says Lyttle. “We don’t want our airport to become a bottleneck.”

To keep pace with growth, SEA is investing more than $4.6 billion over the next five years on projects designed to upgrade facilities and elevate the passenger experience. It’s all part of a long-term capital campaign called Upgrade SEA.

The challenge, however, is space. With only 2,500 acres on its campus, SEA has a relatively small footprint compared to airports with similar traffic volume. Additionally, SEA is committed to not acquiring more land. “Everything has to be built within the existing footprint, and we have to get it right the first time,” Lyttle advises. “We have to design and build with precision because the decisions we’re making are 30- to 50-year decisions, and we just don’t have the space to do any form of remediation.”

That requires innovative and creative thinking about how to meet current demand, he adds. “We can’t go out, so basically we are going up, we’re going in, and, in certain cases, we’re actually going down.”

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