Federal grant helps airport move toward a streamlined, sustainable future

Sunday, May 20, 2012 at 11:36pm
By Ashley Akin

Sometimes it’s as simple as changing the lights.

In 2011, Nashville International Airport was selected as one of 10 U.S. airports to participate in the Federal Aviation Administration’s Sustainability Master Plan Program. The goal is to make sustainability a core objective in airport planning — in other words, working to reduce the environmental impact of the airport while encouraging economic growth to support Nashville’s needs. 

The airport reports its progress periodically throughout the project and uses the collected information to update its master plan. “As we plan for the future we are committed to using the most sustainable features and processes possible,” said Raul Regalado, Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority president and CEO. “We are ensuring a better future for the next generation.”

MNAA has launched several initiatives to meet the environmental goals of the pilot program. It has already upgraded more than 9,000 light bulbs, which will reduce its annual energy usage by more than 3 million kilowatt-hours. This step alone saves the airport $300,000 per year and contributes to a 50 percent reduction in annual energy usage. 

The airport also recycles construction debris when possible. In 2010, it reconstructed runway 2L-20R.

“The old runway concrete surface was crushed and reused as the foundation for the new runway,” said Christine Vitt, the authority’s assistant vice president of construction. “[It] actually cost less, as materials did not have to be hauled in or off of the property.”

MNAA is also enhancing the airport in ways that are both energy efficient and aesthetically pleasing. A new rental car facility that opened in November features natural plant life that will grow and eventually cover the side of the facility. This vegetation will be a colorful visual element for travelers but will also shade and insulate the open-air facility. 

The airport authority’s cost-saving measures help keep the fees it charges airlines competitive. And the more airlines and flights the airport attracts, the better prices are likely to be for air travelers. 

“All of these upgrades are important because of how they make us attractive, both to consumers and airlines,” said MNAA spokeswoman Emily Richard. “So though fuel and labor are still the largest contributing factors to ticket price, we strive to be a value-added airport.”

Vitt says the current sustainability study is being funded by the Passenger Facility Charge and a federal grant. The PFC is $3, of which the airport keeps $2.89 and the airlines keep 11 cents. 

“[These projects translate] to favorable conditions for airlines and concessionaires to be profitable and our customers to keep returning and enjoying their experience while visiting Nashville,” said Vitt. “We try to maintain our rates and charges so that we are in the lower third of comparable medium hub airports.”

Some 9 million people come through the airport each year, and despite citing the economy as its single-largest concern, MNAA says the airport is bouncing back post-recession. Officials hope this $308,000 grant will help the airport continue to grow and improve.

“We have fared very well compared to other airports across the country,” said Richard. “We have experienced 21 consecutive months of airport growth, and we attribute that to the diverse, healthy economy of Nashville.”

If you have visited the airport recently, you may have noticed  many upgrades as a result of the growth. The terminal, which is more than 20 years old, has undergone a full renovation. 

“Pretty much every foot within the terminal has had a facelift,” said Vitt, “both public and behind the scenes.”

The airport is replacing all the escalators and skylights within the terminal ticketing lobby to ensure traveler satisfaction. Other measures to reduce environmental impact and costs are being considered as part of  the pilot program. 

“We have a stormwater retention basin that was formerly a quarry,” said Vitt. “We might be able to pipe the collected stormwater from the basin over to the terminal for irrigation use.”

2 Comments on this post:

By: LCDSucksystem on 5/21/12 at 9:06

Emily Richard is liar!!!!!! Wake up, Sheeple!!!!!!!! Everyone knows that fuel and labor prices are being fixed by BARRACK HUSSEIN NOBAMA and that the airport is just a training ground for his Muslin Holy War!!!!!!!!

By: Ask01 on 5/22/12 at 4:37

Before we agree to this, how much will this cost Nashville in the future if we are required to pay back the money, as in the case of the 50 police officers hired with federal funding?

I don't wish to give some future mayor an excuse to raise property taxes because the city must assume the cost of a program started with federal money with strings attached.