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Lehigh Valley airport set for takeoff on wings of $35M project

Lehigh Valley International Airport unveiled its newest addition on Friday - a TSA Checkpoint Terminal Connector.

It is the first construction project to be completed in the U.S. that was funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The project cost $35 million, of which $5 million came from the Infrastructure Law and another $600,000 was secured by U.S. Rep. Susan Wild through the 2023 Community Project Funding.

“The Lehigh Valley International Airport serves as a critical economic driver for our community, providing jobs, bringing visitors, and connecting our thriving local economy to the rest of the nation and world,” Wild said. “I’m proud to see these investments in ABE that I worked to deliver getting off the ground to modernize our airport infrastructure and support the Lehigh Valley economy.”

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said, “Last year, this was among the first projects we funded through the new Airport Terminal Program under President Biden’s historic infrastructure law - which of course passed thanks to so many dedicated leaders like Sen. (Robert) Casey and Rep. Wild. And now that it’s complete, passengers here will be able to quickly get through security and get to their gate, which means a faster, easier experience for everyone.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro joined Wild and Buttigieg on Friday for a tour of the new facility.

“Federal, state, and local officials worked together to get this done - and I’m proud to be here on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to celebrate the opening of this new terminal and TSA checkpoint here at the Lehigh Valley International Airport,” Shapiro said. “This expansion should send a clear message that Allentown and the Lehigh Valley are ready to drive innovation and economic opportunity on a national and global scale.”

Thomas Stoudt, the executive director of Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority, said they first approached the TSA in 2016 about increasing the number of checkpoint lanes. There were two lanes, but they decided they needed to expand based on the number of people using the airport.

“This isn’t about ‘build it and they will come,’” he said “The service and the demand is here. We’re trying to catch up to having the infrastructure to meet it.

“We took a look at that space. We weren’t able to add a third screening lane, and so we knew the clock was ticking.”

LVIA has about one million passengers using the airport annually, Stoudt said.

“Those numbers continue to grow,” he said.

The airport has 16 nonstop destinations and has recently added flights to Denver and will add Melbourne, Florida, in November.

“We began looking at iterations of designs over the next several years to try to figure out where we could accommodate a new facility and a new checkpoint to make this work. And we were fortunate enough to be able to come up with what I think is a brilliant design that really provides not just the three lanes we need today, but capacity for a fourth lane,” Stoudt said. “It really now separates our inbound and outbound passenger flow.”

Before the new corridor was added, all passengers used the lower level tunnel in a two-way fashion. The new corridor moves the TSA security checkpoint screening lanes from the lower level to a new airy connector terminal with three screening lanes and a fourth for future expansion.

“It’s really going to make all the difference in terms of the capacity and efficiency of the operation for us,” Stoudt said.

The addition also includes an enhanced air purification system designed and created by LifeAire Systems, a company founded in the Lehigh Valley by Kathryn Worrilow.

LVIA is the first airport to use an air-purification system by LifeAire. The system reduces airborne pathogens, including COVID-19, by more than 99%. It has also achieved a 96% reduction of pathogens on surfaces.

“It is woman-founded, woman-run,” Rep. Wild said. “Their company has not only put the incredible filtration system in here, but also in our local hospitals and elsewhere. Really just a crowning success for our community.”

For added health and safety measures, the airport also installed antimicrobial escalator handrails with UVC light disinfection units to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria.

Also of concern to airport leaders is the environment, so they incorporated energy saving features into the project and are pursuing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold certification.

The new corridor includes electrochromic insulated glass windows by Halio. Stoudt said the window technology will automatically darken the windows slightly on hot, sunny days, and let in more light on cold winter days. The technology will help the airport use less energy for air conditioning and heating, and should provide about 27% in energy savings per year.

The airport also installed low VOC insulation, flooring and ceiling materials in the new corridor, and a high-reflectance white roof, and white concrete was used for sidewalks and apron paving to reduce the absorption of heat that create a heat island. Heat islands contribute to elevated regional warming.

In the bathrooms, the water fixtures use low flush and flow rates to reduce water consumption by 38%. This saves more than 57,000 gallons of water per year.

And even in the area of construction waste, LVIA turned to recycling. It recycled more than 625 tons of concrete and rubble, 325 tons of asphalt. 26 tons of wood, and 18 tons of metal.

Gov. Josh Shapiro, center, is handed a flight ticket as he and U.S. Rep. Susan Wild and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg enter the new TSA Checkpoint Terminal Connector at Lehigh Valley International Airport on Friday. The project cost $35 million and is the first completed that was funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. KRISTINE PORTER/TIMES NEWS
This is a view of the new TSA Checkpoint Terminal Connector at Lehigh Valley International Airport looking down at the new screening lanes. KRISTINE PORTER/TIMES NEWS