PHX Sky Train At Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport

Connecting a Community

Phoenix, Arizona

The Sky Train project employed an average of 40 staff and, at its peak, 600 craftspeople, averaging 200-300. And most of them came from the local community.

The Sky Train at Sky Harbor

“As a building project comes to its conclusion, it’s not a feeling you experience every day,” says Hensel Phelps Vice President & District Manager, Allan Bliesmer. “It’s very satisfying. You finally think: ‘We’re going to make it.’” According to Bleismer, what’s most rewarding is that “you can physically see what you’ve created. You can drive past it every day – that’s what sets it in your mind.” In the case of the Phoenix Sky Train, there were other rewards – giving back to the community.

“We’re not only partnering with our clients, we work for the people who are their customers,” says Bliesmer. “We make sure to pay attention to the passengers and the airlines.” And in Phoenix, we paid special attention to the community itself. In fact, many of the Hensel Phelps team themselves staff were residents of the Phoenix – Maricopa County area.

Putting the Community to Work

In 2008, when the local economy was at a low point, the airport and the city wanted to utilize as many Maricopa County contractors as possible for the project. “So, we went work breaking the job into smaller pieces in order to accommodate the capabilities of the contractors,” says Allan Bleismer. In the end, Hensel Phelps had written over 300 subcontracts on the project because of the way the work was phased and broken out.

“If that’s one of the owners’ objectives – to give back to the community – then it’s our obligation to help them accomplish their goals,” says Bliesmer. “We held over 200 community events to support this effort, and make it a success for the community.”


We accomplish more together as a team than we ever could alone. Allan Bleismer would like to acknowledge the contributions of the many Hensel Phelps team members, and the Maricopa County community he was privileged to work with during the course of this landmark project.

The Project

Sky Harbor International Airport had considered a transit system to connect its key facilities in the long term planning of the airport since the development of its newest terminal in the late 1980’s. After careful transportation planning and design, the Airport constructed the PHX Sky Train, an automated people mover system that goes beyond simply connecting key airport facilities:

  • Enhances the airport’s long-term ability to grow
  • Provides a vital transit link to the region
  • Utilizes transit oriented design principles that enhance growth opportunities and livability for the community
  • Reduces local roadway congestion
  • Uses sustainable design and construction methods


The development of this robust transit system involved several unique design features and the undertaking of a complex facility construction program.

The Sky Train is a predominantly elevated, 8 kilometer (5 mile) long automated people mover system runs through and connects key existing and future airport facilities with strategically located stations – Terminals, parking areas, ground transportation centers, Metro Light Rail and Rental Car Center.

The City of Phoenix awarded Hensel Phelps the Stage 1 Automated Train Fixed Facilities project at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Stage 1 of the program connects the Automated Train from the 44th Street / Washington Street public transportation station to the East Economy Parking Lot, and continues to Terminal 4 of the Airport. This contract consisted of 1.9 miles of dual Guideway, three stations, Guideway structures (both aerial and at-grade), power substations, equipment rooms, and other supporting utility infrastructure.

All three new stations are elevated, center-loaded platforms. The 44th Street Station connects to the local light rail system, enabling travelers to access the City directly from the airport by train systems. The East Economy Lot connects to the Airport’s existing parking lot, and the Terminal 4 station connects passengers to the Airport via new walkways.

The Guideway

The Guideway structures are post-tensioned concrete, precast concrete, and steel structures. Coordination with the Airport, airlines and City officials is pertinent to maintaining ongoing airport operations and traffic access.

The Bridge

The signature structure is the Bridge over Taxiway R – a model of innovative and advanced airport transportation infrastructure for the 21st century. Passengers boarding the new Sky Train™ at either the 44th Street Station or East Economy Lot station are provided a beautiful glimpse of the Valley of the Sun as they rise 120 feet into the air and pass over an active airport taxiway on their way to Terminal 4. The bridge foundations include ten – 8 foot diameter drilled shafts drilled 90 feet into the rocky river bed. The concrete cast-in-place structure consists of two – 8 foot diameter columns and two – 13 foot diameter columns on 10 foot thick spread footing pile caps. The falsework used to support the bridge’s post tensioned superstructure during placement is a series of towers consisting of 18 inch steel pipe welded into 80 foot sections and erected to support each of the three spans.

Building for the Long-term

To maximize the benefits of the system, the planning of Sky Train considered the long-term development of the airport, transit-oriented development opportunities adjacent to the airport, and strategies to maximize ridership on the system. Key project features and design concepts that resulted from the planning efforts include:

  • Connect all key Airport facilities. The Sky Train connects the airport terminals, parking facilities, rental car center and the regional light rail system. Stations are located to serve passengers as well as airport and airline employees and other support staff creating a transportation system that eliminates existing airport bus operations.
  • Stations to consider and enhance future land development. Stations are sited and programmed to accommodate future parking garages, support facilities and potential private development that will add to the ridership of the system
  • Accommodation of future stations. Segments along the alignment have been designed to accommodate future stations for future airport parking and terminal facilities that will be needed for long term growth at the airport.
  • Push Ground Transportation out of Terminal core area. Designated non-terminal stations are programmed with Ground Transportation Centers (GTCs) to receive typical ground transportation vehicles (buses, vans, shuttles, passenger vehicles, etc.) to relieve the congested terminal curbs and increase system ridership. The GTC’s are essentially curbs located at stations to create convenient passenger drop off and pick up areas that are a short Sky Train ride away from terminals.
  • Utilize low value land when possible for Sky Train facilities. Planning efforts resulted in creative use of existing airport and adjacent lands to accommodate a large section of Sky Train Guideway and the entire Maintenance and Storage Facility.


The planning efforts resulted in a 5-mile long corridor for the Sky Train that would be implemented in two stages to spread the overall capital requirement. Stage 1 is 3,500 meters (11,500 feet) in length and connects Terminal 4 (which carries 80% of the airport’s traffic), the East Economy Parking Lot and the 44th Street Station, which connects to METRO light rail and other ground transportation modes. 

Project Summary

The Sky Train is a predominantly elevated, 8 kilometer (5 mile) long automated people mover system runs through and connects key existing and future airport facilities with strategically located stations – Terminals, parking areas, ground transportation centers, Metro Light Rail and Rental Car Center. 

Project Highlights
  • Three train stations (APM)
  • Train systems
  • Guideway and guideway structures
  • Power substations/equipment rooms
  • Construction within operating airport
  • Major sitework
  • Parking
Project Roles

Share Project

Related Projects

Strategic Computing Complex (Nicholas C. Metropolis Center for Modeling and Simulation)

The Nicholas C. Metropolis Center features simulation laboratories, immersive and power wall theaters, a visualization theater, and a 200-seat auditorium.

Learn More

Behavioral Health Clinic

The Behavioral Health Clinic on the Womack Medical Campus at Fort Bragg, North Carolina is home to the XVIII Airborne Corps, 82nd Airborne Division, Special Forces Group, Delta Force and the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. The new clinic provides treatment facilities to support U.S. Army Brigade Combat Team initiatives at Fort Bragg and serves Active Duty soldiers and their family members.

Learn More