Dec 20, 2021 - News

DIA's pricey plans may mean more construction woes

Denver International Airport
Denver International Airport. Photo: Hyoung Chang/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Construction at Denver International Airport won't end until at least 2028 if Mayor Michael Hancock's administration has its way.

Driving the news: DIA leader Phil Washington is pushing plans worth more than $1 billion to complete the final phase of the Great Hall Project, with the goals of enhancing security, addressing growing passenger volumes and improving the aging facility.

  • His proposal, which would be funded using DIA revenue, includes a new security checkpoint to increase capacity by more than 60%; "modern and spacious" ticketing areas; renovated restrooms, floors, escalators and elevators; and "comfortable" spaces to meet travelers.
  • Initial blueprints for the project were scaled back last year due to cash constraints after airport officials fired the original developers amid unforeseen costs and delays.

Why it matters: If approved, the project will not only double the renovation cost to $2.1 billion, but extend the airport construction's completion date by four years to 2028 — and that's contingent on the project being finished on time, which could be a reach given the airport's track record.

State of play: Washington will need the support of at least seven Denver City Council members to pass his plan, but only one of the roughly half-dozen members who responded to Axios — Chris Herndon — said they fully back the proposal at face value.

  • Councilperson Kevin Flynn says it's "essential" to finish the final phase of the airport updates — but he's skeptical whether Washington's current proposal is "the right cost," a sentiment shared by council veteran Debbie Ortega.
  • Councilperson Candi CdeBaca opposes the project, telling Axios the city "should complete a botched project, reflect and integrate our learning before we start planning the next one."
  • Councilperson Amanda Sawyer voted against advancing the project last week, arguing more time was needed to scrutinize the details.
  • Councilperson Paul Kashmann tells Axios he is still "considering the merits" of the project, as is Councilperson Chris Hinds.

What they're saying: "These improvements must happen now before it's even more expensive and disruptive," Washington said in a statement, adding that the last phase of construction will be "less impactful" than the previous one.

  • "No one should mistake this as being a shopping mall," he added. "This project is about making sure [DIA] is ready for 100 million annual passengers."

What's next: The full council is slated to cast a final vote on Washington's plans Jan. 3.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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