“We here are today to bury the old Terminal A, not praise it,” Gov. Phil Murphy said during ribbon cutting earlier this month for the new Terminal A at Newark Liberty International Airport. “We will save our praise for this new modern, bright, comfortable, expressive, frankly extraordinary Terminal A.”
And the new facility is certainly worthy of praise. The $2.7 billion terminal replaces the outdated existing Terminal A, which opened in 1973. The new terminal, which officials estimate will begin service on Dec. 8, features approximately 1 million square feet of space with 33 gates, local artwork, 60 dining and retail options — many of which are familiar New Jersey brands, state-of-the-art passenger services, and a Jersey feel throughout.
“This is Jersey,” said Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole, stressing the criticisms that the airport lacks a local flavor. “Are we convinced we’re in Jersey now?”
The ribbon cutting, which was emceed by O’Toole, featured state, county and local officials, along with Port Authority executives and other stakeholders. The event included 700 invitees, a procession of the State Police Color Guard, as well as bagpipe musicians, and a band to greet the governor and first lady on their tour.
“As much as the details of Terminal A represent our proud state’s past and future of economic and thought leadership embedded within every piece that went into this building, is also the values of New Jersey, a state which has warmly welcomed people from across the nation and around the world with open arms,” the governor said.
Murphy maintained that the building was not designed simply to be a waystation between two points in travel as the old Terminal A felt, noting that this project was designed to bring passenger experience to the forefront.
First Lady Tammy Murphy was credited with contributing many of the ideas on the art and little touches felt throughout the new facility. “Today we celebrate both the much-anticipated grand opening of the brand-new Terminal A,” she said. “And also, the end of the Port Authority’s five-year journey to provide travelers with a safer, more comfortable and more welcoming gateway to our great state.”
The first lady highlighted impact that women- and minority-owned businesses had on the project, which is the Port Authority’s largest New Jersey investment in its history. “And as travelers begin their New Jersey journey here, I think they’ll see that nearly every decision was made with them in mind,” said Tammy Murphy, who remarked she is especially proud to showcase the work of local artists. “They add true sense of the life and culture of New Jersey,” the first lady added. “Arriving at Terminal A must be a welcoming experience. And nothing is more welcoming than art.”
Tammy Murphy was followed by Rick Cotton, Port Authority executive director, who O’Toole lauded for his leadership, crediting him as a huge reason why the project was completed. “Today is an historic day for Newark Airport and an historic day for the Port Authority,” said Cotton, who joked that he bet that the public never thought this day would actually arrive. “I hope that you who are here today will agree that the Port Authority has delivered on its commitment to build a new, truly world-class Terminal A.”
O’Toole singled out several other Port Authority officials for their pivotal roles, especially highlighting the efforts of Huntley Lawrence, who has been with the agency for more than three decades and serves as chief operating officer. “This, ladies and gentlemen, represents the cornerstone for the new vision of Newark Liberty International Airport,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence ticked off many of the highlights of the building, including 1,700 spaces in the new parking garage, a state-of-the-art parking guidance system, 12,000 rooftop solar panels, and much more for the new Terminal A, which he noted was almost double the size of the existing one.
The new terminal is expected to handle more than 13 million passengers annually. In comparison, the current Terminal A was designed to handle roughly 9 million passengers, though it has served more than that for years, creating a cramped feeling.
When the new Terminal A opens, 21 of its 33 gates will be operational with the remaining 12 coming online in the next nine months. United Airlines, JetBlue, Air Canada and American Airlines will begin operating there immediately, joined by Delta sometime in the next year.
The atriums and main hallways look almost futuristic, decked out with modern touch screen kiosks throughout as well as security gates that have state-of-the-art scanners and conveyor belts, with open layouts, lots of light, local art on the walls and Jersey touches everywhere.
“This is a game-changer,” said the governor. “Folks will find something that is not only modern, high-tech, open, transparent, plenty of light, easy to maneuver, but it’s Jersey.”
The décor and the food selections feature New Jersey favorites as well as local delicacies from the area around the airport. There is Jersey signage, quotes, dedications and tributes to heroes all around. There are six concession spaces for local businesses featuring industrial-inspired design using shipping container framing, which pays homage to the steel containers of Port Newark. Even the restrooms are Jersey-themed.
Throughout the event and tour given to the media following the ribbon-cutting, officials stressed that the focus was on comfort and traveler experience, highlighting details such as the 60 kiosks that can be used by flyers from any airline to check in, the increased space for security, the convenience of the new parking garage and rental car lot, the number and variety of seating options at the gates and workstations equipped with charging stations, and other amenities.
The new terminal also includes a cutting-edge, digital media program. Locally based New Jersey brands –including Audible, Rutgers University and Atlantic Health System – are the first advertisers to participate in the program.
“You told us you don’t like the experience at our airport, you may not have gotten a response back to your comments initially, but trust me, we heard it, and many of us took it personally,” said Lawrence.
“That was the goal to make that passenger experience something that we should be proud of in New Jersey,” Frank Radics, terminal commercial manager at the Port Authority, told NJBIZ during the tour.
Terminal A is expected to generate more than $4.6 billion in regional economic activity, create more than 2,500 jobs and provide more than $1.9 billion in wages. According to a statement from the governor’s office, as of June 2022, the Terminal A program awarded 94 sub-contracts to minority- and women-owned business enterprises totaling more than $686 million along with $213 million for 92 sub-contracts to New Jersey firms.
The Port Authority partnered with Xovis to equip the new terminal with state-of-the-art technology to meet passenger needs. Sensor technology will be employed at check-in and security, in smart restrooms, at waypoints and departure gate doors, in what officials say is an effort to reduce wait times, increase overall efficiency and, again, to improve the customer experience.
Another focus of the redevelopment was outreach to and incorporation of local communities around Newark and Elizabeth, both for input and for contributions. The Port Authority said it engaged with more than 2,100 local businesses offering information on the Terminal A program.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka thanked the leaders of the project for making sure they all got to this point.
“Bringing everybody into the tent together, all of us from Newark, from Elizabeth, small businesses, local businesses, New Jersey folks into this building,” said Baraka. “This is incredible. New Jersey has lifted itself up because of the re-creation of Terminal A.”
The new terminal was designed and built by Tutor Perini/Parsons, which began construction in 2018, completing work in phases to minimize customer inconvenience. As many of the officials noted, the construction was further complicated because of the pandemic and the subsequent supply chain issues as well as the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“The most extraordinary part of this is that we overcame COVID, over a year-and-a-half of decimating our labor force, men off sick on quarantine, replacements, late delivery of materials because of manufacturing problems,” said Ron Tutor, CEO of Tutor Perini.
“One of the things that is most gratifying is that Terminal A was built the right way,” said the governor. “It was built by union hands. It was also built in one of the most extraordinarily challenging times in the past century.”
Bids on a more than $2 billion replacement of the Newark AirTrain came in over budget, which has delayed that project. In the meantime, the current monorail will service the new Terminal A.
Operations, maintenance and concessions will be overseen by Munich Airport NJ, an internationally recognized airport operator.
“Newark Liberty serves a vital role in the region’s economy, and we are committed to enhancing the passenger experience by transforming the airport into one of the premier airports in the world,” said O’Toole. “This is New Jersey’s largest, design-build project, creating opportunities within the local community that is resulting in thousands of jobs to deliver a world-class facility.”
“The people in the city have to benefit from its growth and development, and this is an example of that today,” said Baraka.
“Newark Airport’s new Terminal A is a world-class 21st century marvel, with cutting edge check-in, security and touchless e-gate technology. Public art, iconic concessions and highly original digital displays also create an unmistakable New Jersey sense of place,” said Cotton.
He added that the project is an example of the Port Authority’s commitment to build inspiring and appealing world-class transportation facilities for the region.
To that end, Port Authority officials said that this terminal transformation is just the beginning of a larger effort to reimagine the whole airport. The agency is in the process of developing a “vision plan,” and just last month chose two firms to create a master plan.
In addition to the new terminal, the $3.3 billion Newark Liberty International Airport redevelopment program also includes a $400 million integrated public parking garage with new centralized rental car facilities and $175 million for south airfield paving.
“As Terminal A proves, when we invest in our communities, we all do better,” said Tammy Murphy. “And together, we are making New Jersey a better place for everyone.”
The governor added that the upgrade was so stark that it was hard not to walk into the new terminal and wonder if this truly was Newark Airport or not.
“Well, yes this is Newark Liberty,” said Murphy. “And I cannot think of a better place to say to the millions of passengers every single year, ‘Welcome to New Jersey.’”