When McCarran International Airport's $2.4-billion third terminal complex opens on June 27, it will mark the end of a decade-long string of big projects in the region.

The five-year undertaking employed 1,800 people working more than 9.5 million man-hours. "It's a bit of a letdown to see it done," says Sean Stewart, executive vice president, Associated General Contractors, Las Vegas chapter. "There aren't any billion-dollar projects on the horizon."

Bechtel Infrastructure Corp. was the program manager; Perini Building Co. was general contractor for the three-level, 1.9-million-sq-ft terminal building under a $1.2-billion contract. The terminal is joined by several other projects that were completed at different times: a 5,954-space, 2.3-million-sq-ft, $121.7-million garage built by McCarthy Building Cos.; an eight-mile elevated roadway system built by Las Vegas Paving Corp.; a 100,000-sq-ft central plant built by Penta Building Group; and a 900-ft-long automated connecting tram. McCarthy also constructed the $153.7-million early civil site improvements.

Touted as the state’s largest public works job ever, construction proved tricky with more than 100 contracting companies working simultaneously on multiple phases in close vicinity around a fully operating airport. Despite the size and complexity, the project still finished on time and on budget. All told, it was the largest expansion in the airport’s 64-year history, and brings the four-runway, 2,800-acre McCarran to final build-out at 117 gates.

Last year, McCarran was the world's 20th-busiest airport, with nearly 41.5 million passengers. Its international passengers are expected to quadruple to 30% from 7% in the next 15 years, says Director Randall H. Walker. The 14-gate terminal has seven international gates and a 60,000-sq-ft, 28-lane customs and border-protection area capable of processing 2,000 visitors an hour.

The parallelogram-shaped terminal, designed by Houston-based PGAL, increases its passenger arrival and departure efficiency by 15% through the heavy integration of technology. There are do-it-yourself kiosks from ASIG, Orlando, Fla., for self-baggage check, plus self-boarding gates and automated aircraft docking with LED display for streamlined operations. The building uses 1.5-million linear ft of electrical wire and cable–enough to stretch from Las Vegas to Los Angeles–and can service 440,000 passengers per hour. The high-tech terminal, which offers free wireless Internet, uses 130 kiosks, 32 curbside check-in stations, 840 40-in LCD screens, 16 in-line security scanners, and eight miles of second generation RFID baggage conveyors.

"The owner wanted to incorporate as much flexibility as possible into the building," says Don Wright, Bechtel's project manager. Terminal 3 can service the equivalent of 58 gates by connecting to the neighboring D-Gates via a 900-ft-long underground Bombardier automated transit shuttle ride.

McCarran provided a nearby 53-acre property for construction storage and staging, while a project labor agreement prevented any work stoppages. “We undertook a partnering approach to coordinate activity with the adjacent contracts,” says Michael Kerchner, Perini vice president. “We held weekly open-door coordination sessions with other contractors, and kept an open line of communication.”