Facing major budget constraints, Denver International Airport officials are in the process of deciding how to scale back its terminal renovation, otherwise known as the Great Hall project.
Honoring a commitment to spend no more than $770 million to get it done, airport executives recently revealed there was only $170 million left to work with, meaning the heart of the project — upper-level security screening areas and the redesign of some airlines’ check-in areas — won't be seen all the way through.
The project aims to secure the passenger screening areas, but has been fraught with problems just about since it started. Last summer, DIA fired contractor Great Hall Partners after monthslong delays, reportedly from faulty concrete and repeated change directives. The fallout cost the airport nearly $184 million and put the project years behind schedule.
On Wednesday, airport officials met with the Denver City Council’s business and aviation committee to update members on their considerations around how best to move forward.
“The conversations that are being had now are, what do we do next?” Cristal DeHerrera, DIA’s chief of staff, told committee members. Of the “myriad of variations” up for discussion are focused on “how do you minimize the vulnerability at the checkpoint?”
Other priorities include meeting passenger growth demands and enhancing passenger experience.
The airport is now considering two main options: either maintaining the checkpoints in their current location and adding protective measures, or relocating just one checkpoint upstairs and adding protective measures to the checkpoint on the ground level.
Possible safety measures would include increased security guards, erecting taller barrier walls, and an enhanced security system, among other options.
Still, no decisions have been made yet, largely because the airport is still “very much deep in our process” of meeting with airlines to solicit feedback and work through operational challenges and impacts.
“That process is very important. The airlines are not a monolithic group … and they have different and important needs and operational considerations that we need to be mindful of,” DeHerrera said.
DIA’s major airlines have made clear in the past that they aren’t on board with the renovation plans, taking aim at the revamped security checkpoints, project costs and overall investment soundness.
Airport officials will be returning to the council’s business and aviation meeting for another briefing in the near future to provide more details, renderings and updates around the next phase of the project.
“We need to do it right, not fast,” she said, to make sure “we have looked at what needs to be done in the next phase from all sides.”