PIT Prepares for a Heavy Lift

Setting massive steel girders for new terminal foundation to require an overnight train stoppage at PIT

By Alyson Walls

Published February 28, 2022

Read Time: 3 mins


Both trains and the emergency tunnel between the Airside and Landside terminals will be closed overnight on Tuesday, March 8, while contractors lift two large steel girders into place using a 200-foot crane. The extraordinary procedure will advance a key phase of construction on the new terminal while ensuring the safety of passengers, employees, and ongoing airport operations.

The temporary train shutdown is scheduled from 8 p.m. March 8 until 4 a.m. March 9, with both trains expected to be back up and running for the morning push of flights which begins at 5:20 a.m.

The airport will implement a busing contingency program to transport people between terminals during that time. Dozens of airport staff will assist with the busing operation, directing people to the bus pick-up and drop-off locations outside the Alternate Security Checkpoint and the International Arrivals area.

No significant delays are anticipated, as the crane lifts have been timed to minimize impacts to arriving and departing passengers and airport employees. However, transit between the terminals may take 10 to 15 minutes longer to travel via a bus.

Up to 4,000 passengers are forecasted to arrive and depart during the event, most of which are arriving between 9:30 and 11:30 p.m. Up to eight buses will transport passengers and staff back and forth.

Fifty-Ton Girders

The steel embedded plate girders, about 80 feet long and weighing roughly 100,000 pounds each, will form the structural slab foundation upon which the new terminal will be built. A third similarly sized girder is scheduled to be placed over the train tunnel in April at a date to be determined. That process will also require an overnight closure of the trains.

Steel for the new terminal is being sourced from throughout the U.S. and fabricated at Sippel Steel in Ambridge, Pa., just a few miles from the airport. It is being delivered to the construction site in sequence as needed.

A total of 25 embedded plate girders will sit on the caissons and auger cast piles that have been drilled and installed as part of deep foundations work that Mascaro began in November of 2021. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

Rob Bramblett, Project Executive with the terminal construction management joint venture of PJ Dick–Hunt, said safety and security is always the top priority and shutting down the trains during these critical crane lifts is one of many added safety precautions being taken throughout the airport modernization program.

“There will be numerous checks of the crane, rigging, and other procedures throughout this operation, but we never want to have anyone underneath a suspended load, so that’s why the train closure is necessary,” Bramblett said.

A total of 25 embedded plate girders will sit on the caissons and auger cast piles that have been drilled and installed as part of deep foundations work that Mascaro began in November of 2021. Three of the girders span the train tunnels, requiring a complete closure.

Specialized laser and vibration monitoring equipment has also been installed in the train tunnels to continuously monitor any movement or structural issues throughout construction over the next three years. The tunnels are also inspected on a weekly basis by a team of engineers.

Bramblett said construction involving a similar structural slab was conducted at Philadelphia International Airport.

“We do not want to impose any added building loads to the existing tunnels, so this structural slab diverts the loads away from the tunnels to the auger pilings and the earth underneath,” he said.

If weather conditions – particularly high winds – prevent the crane lifts from occurring the night of March 8, the procedure will occur on the backup date of Saturday, March 12.

Additional steel for the new terminal is expected to begin rising later this spring, and the new terminal is scheduled to open in 2025.

Go to Top