Eugene Walker, Heavy Equipment Operator for the Allegheny County Airport Authority, signs the final steel beam for the airport’s new terminal structure. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

PIT Raises the Roof on New Terminal

Pittsburgh International Airport’s new terminal is reaching new heights—literally.

This week, project workers, airport employees, community leaders and business partners etched their names onto what will be one of the uppermost steel beams placed on top of the new terminal as part of a traditional “topping out” ceremony.

“This project is a manifestation of our mission, and it is being created by and for the people living in western PA with an emphasis on the nature, technology and community of the region,” said Christina Cassotis, CEO of the Allegheny County Airport Authority, which operates and manages Pittsburgh International Airport.

As part of its Terminal Modernization Program, PIT is building a new landside terminal, parking facility, and new airport roadway system. The project will deliver a faster, more efficient experience for passengers, while providing a more sustainable and adaptable airport.

It was fitting that the topping out took place during Construction Safety Week, a nationwide initiative to emphasize the health and safety of workers.

Project leaders have long praised the workers in hard hats who built this project from the ground to the top.

The Allegheny County Airport Authority entered a partnership with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration at the facility’s groundbreaking in October 2021 that increases communication and cooperation between the two organizations and the contractors on the project.

The partnership is the first of its kind and allows a healthy exchange of information to create and enforce the best practices to keep all workers safe on the project.

A tall task

The ceremonial topping out dates back to Scandinavian mythology, according to the International Association of Bridge, Structural, and Ornamental Ironworkers.

When people were finished building wooden structures, a small tree or branch would be placed on top, and that custom eventually passed through Europe and on to America.

PIT’s new terminal won’t have a literal tree placed on top, but the structural steel tree columns are one of many pivotal construction pieces seen onsite today.

Construction of the building’s roof began last month. The steel beam signed today will be placed atop the structure this summer, just as the project nears the 50 percent complete mark.

Some of the biggest pieces stand out to the naked eye—like the steel beam, precast concrete and bridge girder placements—but other less visible aspects are progressing quickly—like interior concrete pours, fireproofing and electrical work.

Leaving a mark

Each employee, both within the airport and on the construction project, received the opportunity to write their name on the final steel beam and leave their mark on the project of choice in the region.

The piece of steel employees signed was fabricated just a few miles from the airport by Sippel Steel in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. The precast concrete and exterior glass also come from the region.

Cassotis said the project is truly built for Pittsburgh and by Pittsburgh, with around 85 percent of onsite workers coming from the western Pennsylvania region. Those employees got to connect themselves to this project for as long as it stands—and all through a piece of steel fabricated minutes away from the airport.

“The new terminal will go further for our community and our passengers to create an innovative and welcoming experience to everyone who walks through here. I thank our airline partners and our community, particularly our elected leaders, for their support to make the idea of a new terminal at PIT a reality,” Cassotis added.

Once the steel beam is placed, there is plenty of work ahead.

Large metal girders continue to be placed on the front bridge that will connect the updated roadway system to the new terminal with concrete pours and weather preparations to follow.

  • Precast concrete for the parking facility is coming together quickly as crews placed the first set of stairs recently.
  • Workers will continue placing high roof steel on the new terminal, and the connector bridge that marries the new terminal to the existing airside terminal is now being placed.

Construction updates are available at PIT’s new terminal is expected to open in 2025.