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The Philadelphia International Airport is about to get a bit more international. US Airways and city officials outlined plans last week to design and construct a new international terminal, scheduled to open in 2001, and a concourse for commuter-airline flights, planned to open in 2000. A spokesperson for US Airways, the largest airline in the Northeast, said the company is working to designate Philadelphia as its "primary international gateway." The $400 million project will likely be one of the area's major job engines during the next decade. The project should generate about $18 billion in business over the next 18 years, according to Mark Pesce, an airport spokesperson. Pesce said the construction will generate 3,000 jobs, with the international terminal itself creating about 3,600 permanent jobs. In addition, airport officials had more good news this week: Philadelphia has the fastest-growing airport in the country in terms of passenger traffic. According to figures released by Airports Council International, an airport trade group, Philadelphia International Airport's traffic hit 22.4 million passengers last year, an increase of 16.2 percent. Such an increase is nearly double that of the second-place facility, the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, which had an 8.4 percent growth rate. Philadelphia's total number of passengers rose 3.1 million, second only to Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport. Philadelphia's airport, the 21st-busiest in the nation, now directly serves six international cities for Arlington, Va.-based US Airways: Frankfurt, Munich, Paris, Madrid, Rome and London. On April 29, the airline will also begin flights to Amsterdam from Philadelphia. In 1997, about 2 million international passengers traveled through Philadelphia. US Airways spokesperson David Castelveter also said Philadelphia will be a connecting arm for commuters. "There is now a significant growth in the international marketplace, so you need the facilities to accommodate that growth," Castelveter said. The $275 million, 700,000-square-foot international terminal will be built just west of Terminal A, and will curve over what is now the airport's runway system for departures. It will continue through what is currently a ramp area and land occupied by a vacant TWA hangar and three other buildings, providing up to 19 gates for increased international service. The new facility -- expected to open in the spring of 2001 -- will be called Terminal 1 and will require relocating bridges and highway ramps from Interstate 95. It will include expanded international-arrival facilities, moving walkways and larger public sitting areas. The $65 million, 165,000-square-foot concourse for US Airways Express commuter flights will be called Terminal F and will be located at the northeast end of the terminal system. The facility -- set to open in the fall of 2000 -- will be Y-shaped, featuring its own ticketing and baggage-claim facilities. Connecting passengers will be able to reach the new terminal either by enclosed walkways or by a shuttle bus. "All the terminals will be part of a single large facility, linked by moving walkways and with easily accessible parking facilities and public transit," said Dennis Bouey, director of Philadelphia International Airport. The new concourses come on the heels of more than $1 billion in renovations and additions to the airport by airlines and the city over the last decade. Renovations to two terminals are scheduled to be completed this summer, and a new commuter runway will be ready in December 1999. The terminals and other projects associated with the construction will be financed with bonds sold by the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development, a quasi-governmental agency. Revenue generated by US Airways and its passengers will pay off the bonds. No local tax dollars will fund the project. US Airways currently operates 390 jets and US Airways Express flights daily at Philadelphia, serving 90 destinations in North America and the Caribbean, as well as the soon-to-be seven sites in Europe.

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