Dollars & nonsense at PIT

Dollars & nonsense at PIT

The Allegheny County Airport Authority says passenger traffic increased by 1.2 percent in 2019 at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT). That’s versus the 7.5 percent jump it reported for 2018.

Authority CEO Christina Cassotis blames last year’s reduced growth on the grounding, starting in March, of those troubled 737 Max jets which affected Southwest and American airlines, PIT’s largest carriers.

Never mind that some other airports with those airlines and the same jet issue posted better gains.

And what, throwing $3 million over two years at British Airways for direct Boeing 787 Dreamliner flights between Pittsburgh and London – a deal so highly touted that one would have thought it was The Greatest Business Coup Ever Achieved – wasn’t the cat’s meow it was sold to be?

Speaking of which, isn’t the public about due for an accounting of how those flights – four times weekly and which began a year ago next month – are doing?

Inquiring minds want to know if the “pent-up demand” Cassotis said was there really existed.

Speaking of PIT, the Tribune-Review reports that “travelers this spring will start seeing the prep work for a three-year $1.1 billion construction project this summer that will build a new terminal at Pittsburgh International Airport.”

Of course, that oft-quoted price, Airport Authority officials were forced to admit, won’t be the final price. And we’re not talking about it being less.

Cassotis has yet to quantify how much more the “modernization” project will run. But there always seems to be that concomitant rationalization with such talk about how no local tax dollars will be used and that the airlines are footing the lion’s share of the bill.

But you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be taxpayer dollars in this project from federal and state sources. And, of course, there are gambling dollars in the deal.

The simple fact remains that the Airport Authority and PIT are public entities and the public that, yes indeedy, will be helping to pay for a very expensive project that some have dubbed as dubious have a right to know what this thing really is going to cost – now.

That the authority appears to not have a steady handle on the eventual cost of such a large project at this stage of the game – or it knows and is not revealing it publicly — is not acceptable.

Effectively saying “We’ll know what it costs when it’s done” defiles sound public policy.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).