Gannett Fleming, Design Engineer for PHX Sky Train™: First Transit Bridge in the World to Cross an Active Taxiway

The new PHX Sky Train™ people-mover system is a prototype for airports seeking modern transit solutions. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport opened Stage 1 of the PHX Sky Train™ to customers on April 8, 2013, marking a global distinction for Gannett Fleming as design engineer of the first transit bridge in the world to cross an active taxiway.

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Overcoming challenging site constraints, the elevated people-mover system weaves seamlessly through the airport's 3,000-acre, three-runway grounds.

Overcoming challenging site constraints, the elevated people-mover system weaves seamlessly through the airport's 3,000-acre, three-runway grounds.

The congested site required many innovative solutions during the project's design and construction. — Mark Pilwallis, P.E., senior project manager for Gannett Fleming Inc.

Phoenix, Arizona (PRWEB) May 18, 2013

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport opened Stage 1 of the PHX Sky Train™ to customers on April 8, 2013, marking a global distinction for Gannett Fleming as design engineer of the first transit bridge in the world to cross an active taxiway.

Defined as an automated people-mover system, the PHX Sky Train™ allows one of the country’s busiest airports to alleviate roadway congestion and enhance customer service. It serves as a prototype for airports seeking modern transit solutions.

For Stage 1, Gannett Fleming served as the fixed facilities design engineer. Kimley-Horn & Associates served as civil engineer; Dinter Engineering provided mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering services; and HOK provided architectural design services. Hensel Phelps served as construction manager.

The initial 1.92-mile-long PHX Sky Train™ segment includes three elevated passenger stations, and it links the Phoenix region’s 44th Street METRO light rail station with the airport’s economy parking area and the 88-gate Terminal 4. The system is designed to be intuitive and simple, creating a high-level of service and convenience for passengers with facilities that are well integrated into the airport and the surrounding community.

Overcoming challenging site constraints, the elevated PHX Sky Train™ weaves seamlessly through the airport’s 3,000-acre, three-runway grounds. “As with most airports, Sky Harbor was not laid out with the intent of integrating an intermodal transit system in the future. The congested site required many innovative solutions during the project’s design and construction,” said Mark Pilwallis, P.E., senior project manager for Gannett Fleming based in the firm’s Phoenix office.

One major project obstacle was the location of Taxiway Romeo, an active runway that was directly in the Sky Train’s path. To provide the best alignment into the Terminal 4 Station, the guideway needed to cross over the taxiway. While the team first considered routing the people-mover under the taxiway, this more expensive approach offered significant challenges, and ultimately it could not provide a connection to the best location for the Terminal 4 Station.

Only an elevated system would provide the most efficient alignment. The design and planning process required intense coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to develop acceptable solutions. “There were no predetermined design benchmarks or examples to follow. The team was called upon to develop and present detailed criteria to the FAA,” Pilwallis stated.

The FAA approved the above-ground solution. The guideway crosses over Taxiway Romeo, the first time in the world that a transit bridge has been used to cross an active taxiway. The bridge is high enough to allow a Boeing 747 to pass underneath. It is 90 feet above the taxiway, and the columns supporting it are as deep under the ground as they are tall—up to 125 feet in some locations.

Meeting goals for sustainability and long-term flexibility, the electrically powered, automated PHX Sky Train™ encourages patrons to use alternative transportation by connecting Terminal 4 to METRO light rail. It is expected to reduce the airport’s greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 6,000 tons a year, and three stations will use 30 percent less power than established normal baselines.

The project has been LEED® Gold Certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, making it the only LEED® certified public transportation campus in the world. “Roadway and curb-side congestion is alleviated, passengers experience easier connections to the surrounding community, and green building features exemplify the airport’s commitment to the environmental stewardship,” Pilwallis said.

An extension of the PHX Sky Train™ to connect the remainder of the terminals is underway and is scheduled to open in 2015. A future second phase of the PHX Sky Train™ program will add an additional 2.5 miles of guideway and connect to the Rental Car Center. The full PHX Sky Train™ system will create a modern and efficient transportation system capable of serving the needs of the airport, its passengers, and the local community long into the future.

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Gannett Fleming is a global infrastructure firm that provides planning, design, technology, and construction management services for a diverse range of markets and disciplines. With 2,000 employees, we have helped to shape infrastructure and improve communities through transportation, environmental, water, power and facility-related projects in more than 65 countries. The firm embraces sustainability and innovation for all activities, finding the best solutions and the most efficient processes while being responsible stewards of the environment. Founded in 1915, Gannett Fleming had $305.6 million in revenues in 2012 and has more than 60 offices around the world. We are proud to be ISO 9001:2008 Certified.


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