A flurry of construction that will significantly expand the capacity of Denver International Airport kicked off Tuesday as crews broke ground on a $1.5 billion gate expansion project.
In the next three years, that project will add 39 gates across all three concourses, a 35 percent increase in the number of regular boarding positions. Concourse B, the largest, is expected to see new gates open first, with four ready for boarding on its west end by 2020.
“We will not only increase capacity, but we will add more passenger amenities, including food and shopping, charging stations and even outdoor space where you can enjoy Colorado’s beautiful weather and scenery,” airport CEO Kim Day said during the groundbreaking ceremony, according to a news release.
Since the expansions will occur at the ends of the concourses, the impact on passengers is expected to be minimal.
More noticeable will be an upcoming, wide-scale terminal renovation that is part of a separate, $1.8 billion public-private partnership deal. Starting in late June or July, Great Hall Partners will consolidate ticketing areas, move security screening to the upper level and construct new main-floor concession spaces that will be privately managed for decades.
The projects are responses to years of breakneck passenger growth at DIA. More than 61 million travelers departed, arrived or connected on flights at DIA last year, a 5.3 percent increase that enabled DIA to regain its position as the fifth-busiest U.S. airport.
Along with the construction projects, DIA officials are ordering more cars for the underground train that ferries passengers from the terminal to the concourses.