An outlying transit center that will allow people to board a free elevated train to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport instead of dealing with road congestion will be ready to welcome passengers by December.
But those airport-goers will be bused instead of whisked overhead to the terminals, said Jane Morris, assistant aviation director.
The first phase of the now-dubbed automated train system, formerly the more colorfully monikered people mover, is slated to be completed in 2013, she said. Tracks will be overhead instead of underground because it’s a cheaper and more customer friendly method of transport, Morris said.
The train system design is only 30 percent complete, but the first phase, which will transport people from the new transit terminal at 44th and Washington streets to the east economy parking lot and Terminal 4, is expected to cost at least $440 million, she said. Until the train system is built, passengers will use buses between the transit center and the airport terminal.
The transit terminal, which is nearly completed, will open when light rail gears up, Morris said, although it is designed to be a convenient passenger drop-off spot for cars and other transports.
Airport officials have narrowed possible train suppliers to three and expect to present those options to Phoenix City Council in the fall, Morris said. The trains will be electric, driverless, fully accessible, high capacity and run on rubber tires, she said.
A second phase of the transport system, which will link up to additional terminals and the rental car center, is slated for 2020.
Other pieces of the $2.9 billion airport improvement plan approved by Phoenix City Council a year ago include a new concourse for Terminal 4 and the razing and rebuilding of the tiny Terminal 2.
Those plans are on hold until airlines say they need more terminal space, said Deborah Ostreicher, deputy aviation director.
The new concourse could happen soon if the hometown airline gears up its international business to a big extent.
Tempe-based US Airways President Scott Kirby said last week that the airline could be flying to Europe from Sky Harbor by 2010.
Whether there are enough international gates and processing space in the international area of Terminal 4 by then would depend on how many flights the carrier would add, and what time of day they planned to take off, said Carl Newman assistant aviation director.