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Seattle Discovers Its New $1 Billion Airport Terminal Can’t Fit The Long-Haul Planes it Was Designed to Handle

Seattle Discovers Its New $1 Billion Airport Terminal Can’t Fit The Long-Haul Planes it Was Designed to Handle

The Port of Seattle says it could cost as much as $78 million to fix an apparent design flaw with the new International Arrivals Facility at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which was meant to be able to handle up to 20 long-haul wide-body aircraft at any one time.

The $1 billion construction project, the largest in the port authority’s history, was designed to nearly double the number of international gates at Sea-Tac, but port officials now say the facility can only handle 16 aircraft at a time because of flaws in the layout.

In a strongly worded letter to Clark Construction which was the firm responsible for the IAF’s design and construction, the Port of Seattle claimed that the shortfall of available gates could cause damages “in the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars over the expected life of this project.”

The IAF includes the world’s longest pedestrian aerial walkway over an active taxi lane, as well as a new grand hall that replaces a half-century-old customs and baggage reclaim hall.

After more than 3 million labor hours, the facility opened last April with the hopes of more than doubling Seattle’s international passenger capacity to 2,600 passengers per hour, but the port authority now fears the design flaw could leave the oversubscribed airport with a capacity issue that the IAF was meant to solve.

Only after the facility was built did the port authority realize that widebody aircraft like the Airbus A330, Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner, which are regularly used on long-haul international flights, couldn’t fit into four of the gates at the facility.

At one gate, officials suggested a solution that involved planes parking in a diagonal to the building but this would mean the wing tips protruding into the space of the adjacent gate.

At another gate, a possible fix involves moving escalators and elevators in a project that could cost tens of millions of dollars. Another gate might never be able to handle widebody aircraft.

Originally earmarked to cost no more than $968 million, the Port authority was forced to pump an additional $18 million into the project in 2021, but now there are fears an additional $78 million will need to be found to address the gate layout design.

In a statement to Oregon Live, a spokesperson for SeaTac said the port was “actively and aggressively working to address deficiencies”, although admitted that “plans have not been finalized.”

Oregon Live reports that Clark Construction sued the Port of Seattle last December for $100 million, claiming it had been underpaid labor costs, while the Port is counter-suing Clark to recoup costs involved in fixing the gate layout fiasco.

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