Dallas/Fort Worth Airport is looking at possible cost overruns for its $2.3 billion terminal renovation project.
At the airport board’s operations committee meeting on Tuesday, board member Bernice Washington said there may be “substantial overruns and costs” as part of the project that is renovating Terminals A, B, C, and E.
“We have what we consider some potential challenges and we want the whole board to be aware of these challenges,” Washington said, adding that a full report will be made to the board at the September meeting.
There are three factors contributing to the potential cost overruns, Washington said, although she did not mention how much over-budget the project might be. Building material costs have increased significantly since the project started two years ago and the airport has found more asbestos in Terminal B than they had anticipated. Washington said there may be $52 million in additional project costs because of the asbestos.
The third issue causing construction delays is the pending merger of US Airways and the airport’s largest tenant, American Airlines. The airport staff issued a stop work order for the ticketing area currently under construction in the middle of Terminal A because of a “lack of precision on proposed changes from American,” Washington said.
“They are in flux because they are coming out of bankruptcy with new leadership...which is causing some substantial delays on making decisions for us,” she said.
So far, the airport has $1.25 billion in contract commitments for the seven-year project.
Separately, airport board members were also briefed on the staffing problems at Terminal D’s customs area that has led to long lines for international passengers. On July 22, passengers were waiting over three hours as 93 international flights with 10,518 passengers moved through the customs area. Although Terminal D has 60 immigration lanes, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol had an average of 23 agents on staff with only 10 at the lowest staffing point of the day.
“This is by far the worst day we’ve had since we moved into Terminal D,” said Byford Treanor, vice president of customer service for the airport, adding that over 4,111 passengers waited over 60 minutes to clear through customs.
DFW has the longest average wait time through customs at major U.S. airports with a 28 minute average wait. At 69 minutes, DFW is second to JFK and its 83 minute wait for the longest average peak wait time through customs.
The airport said it has been lobbying local congressional leaders to fund more customs agents and has been marketing the Global Entry program. It is also plans to unveil 30 automated passport control kiosks in November to help reduce wait times in the customs area by allowing U.S. passengers to enter their own information to customs questions before reaching an agent.
“This summer we’ve had significant growth in international service and if you go back to 2009, we have averaged over a 29 percent increase in passengers and zero growth in officers so that hits on the issue we have in customs,” Treanor said.