Tucson airport finally getting facelift after 60 years

Tucson International Airport, one of the largest commercial airports in the country, is undergoing a $300 million remodel for the first time in 60 years. 

The project is primarily to modernize and configure the runways to make flying in and out much safer. Included will be construction of a new full-length commercial runway. 

Danette Bewley

It will usher in a new era of safety on the airfield and encourage new investment in the region, said Danette Bewley, president and CEO of the nonprofit Tucson Airport Authority that operates the airport and nearby general aviation airport Ryan Field.

Planes will be able to depart and land faster, and the airfield will be less confusing for pilots, Bewley said. 

“It really is exciting for Tucson and the region because it brings our airport up to the next level,” Bewley said. “When we’re improving our facilities, our infrastructure, and our operation, it really has a multiplier effect for the entire region. More jobs are created and more businesses may want to locate or expand here.”

Largest project in airport’s history

The project, which is being funded almost entirely by the Federal Aviation Administration, is the largest in the airport’s 72-year-history. Although there have been modifications over the years, the airport’s airfield was designed almost 60 years ago. 

It will take about five years to complete the project and is expected to support 1,000 jobs.

Project highlights:

  • Demolish the existing general aviation runway and construct relocated full length commercial runway
  • Construct center taxiway between existing and new parallel runway
  • Construct outer taxiway and construct end-around taxiway
  • Modify lighting connectors throughout the airfield
  • Install new barrier cable and expand pavement for Air National Guard
  • Demolish and replace structures where ammunition and explosives are stored. 
  • Conduct a sound insulation program for select homes

Plenty of room for new industry

This project is very important to Tucson’s economic growth and there’s plenty of room for new tenants at both TUS and Ryan Airfield, said Laura Shaw, senior vice president of Sun Corridor, Inc., an economic development partner with the airport authority. 

Sun Corridor acts as a “one stop shop” ready to assist companies in their efforts to relocate or grow within Southern Arizona, Shaw said.

At 8,282 acres, TUS is one of the 10 largest commercial airports in the country. Within 10 miles of Tucson’s central business district, the airport serves as a catchment area of more than 1.4 million residents in southern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico. 

Near interstates 10 and 19, the airport is less than 9 miles from the Port of Tucson, a 770-acre full-service inland port offering unrivaled logistics and warehousing opportunities, including more than 1.8 million square feet of improved space, refrigerated storage and distribution.

“The Tucson International Airport is a critical employment area in the region, with more than 100 tenants in MRO, FBO, Aerospace, Aviation Services and Air Cargo,” Shaw said. “With a $7.4 billion economic impact, the Tucson Airport Employment Zone supports more than 43,000 jobs and includes employers such as Raytheon Missiles & Defense, Bombardier, Ascent Aviation, FedEx, HomeGoods, Skywest Airlines, Universal Avionics and others.”

To learn more about the project, Tucson International Airport and Ryan Airfield, visit Tucson Airport Authority.

Victoria Harker

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