More cargo passed through Pittsburgh International Airport last year than at any point since 2004, as the industry capitalized on the airport’s speed and efficiency.
Officials celebrating the ceremonial groundbreaking of PIT’s newest—and biggest—cargo facility are clear on its benefits for the region: jobs and economic impact.
“This is new international cargo business that we’re going to be attracting with this facility, some of which we already have and some of which we have a good reason to believe will grow because of the facility,” said U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-17th District), whose district includes the airport and among those who appeared at the Nov. 1 event.
Support from Lamb and the rest of Western Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation was vital in securing more than $20 million in federal funding for the building, dubbed Cargo 4, officials said.
“The expansion of cargo at Pittsburgh International Airport continues to be another example of the strong and growing economy of our region,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “More cargo means more jobs, and I thank our federal delegation for their work in securing the grant that helped get this project to where we are today.”
Construction crews officially got underway with site preparation on the 77,000-square-foot facility in September. Cargo 4 will create much-needed space for expansion and introduce new technology and cargo-handling capabilities to PIT.
Scheduled to open in 2024, the project will enhance the airport’s ability to accept international freight and distribute it throughout the U.S. and North America, making Western Pennsylvania more competitive in a rapidly growing industry and positioning the airport as a gateway for international logistics, officials said.
And its benefits are expected to extend beyond the airfield: the new facility will generate an estimated annual economic impact of $229 million for the region, according to the airport.
“That’s what we’re excited about—the jobs it’s going to bring and the economic vitality to this region,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, (D-18th District).
The Cargo 4 project will enhance the airport’s ability to accept international freight and distribute it throughout the U.S. and North America.
The Cargo 4 project is being funded in part through the U.S Department of Transportation’s BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) program, which supports investments in transportation infrastructure.
In November 2019, the agency awarded an $18.69 million grant to PIT to support the construction of the facility on the northwest side of the airfield. Earlier this year, the agency awarded an additional $5.8 million for the project.
“Cargo 4 will have a huge knock-on effect for the economy of the region; not just for Allegheny County, but for the whole region of Western Pennsylvania,” said Pittsburgh International Airport CEO Christina Cassotis.
Fitzgerald joined Cassotis, Lamb, Doyle, state Sen. Devlin Robinson, PennDOT Acting Deputy Secretary for Multimodal Transportation Andy Batson and County Councilman Sam DeMarco in speaking at the event.
State officials also helped to secure state grants toward Cargo 4 construction.
The facility includes 69,000 square feet of warehouse space and 7,300 square feet of office space across two floors. The building will feature 17 loading docks for trucks; most will come with dock levelers, while others will be used specifically for Unit Loading Devices (ULDs).
“This is going to create numerous jobs in warehousing, trucking and ground handling with other great benefits to the region,” Robinson said. “It just shows how the region can benefit when all of our interests are aligned.”
Flatbed trucks will be able to access the interior of the warehouse with a dedicated loading dock, which is advantageous in poor weather.
Dedicated areas in the facility will be able to house goods deemed valuable, vulnerable or hazardous. It will also have expansion capabilities to hold more equipment for special cargo and accommodate temperature-controlled goods.
The facility will be able to handle any cargo aircraft flying today. Its expanded apron will be able to serve two Boeing 747-8 Freighters side by side, or up to four Boeing 757-200s at once.
Nearly 250 million pounds of cargo shipped from around the world touched down at PIT in 2021, a 30 percent increase over 2020 and a 26 percent increase from 2019, as demand for air cargo soared amid global supply chain disruptions.