The extended PHX Sky Train is set to deliver convenience and innovation

Heather Shelbrack details how Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport endeavours to improve passenger experience both inside and out of the terminal. Extending the PHX Sky Train® is one of the initiatives supporting this.

Construction of PHX Sky Train in August 2019

Construction of PHX Sky Train in August 2019

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) is in the midst of a nearly $2 billion capital investment programme. Several complex projects are currently underway to further enhance the airport’s world-class service and facilities.

One such project is the extension of the PHX Sky Train® to the Rental Car Center. The project, which was approved by the Phoenix City Council in October 2016, will extend service of the PHX Sky Train® from Terminal 3 by 2.5 miles to the Rental Car Center.

The benefits gained by extending the line

This project will greatly enhance the passenger experience for travellers using the consolidated Rental Car Center: They will no longer need to board a bus to access the centre. The ease of use will especially benefit passengers using wheelchairs and families with strollers and an abundance of luggage. There are also significant time savings as a result. The ride aboard the PHX Sky Train® will take about eight minutes from Terminal 4 to the Rental Car Center and approximately six from Terminal 3. The total ride along the five-mile route from the Rental Car Center to the 44th Street Station will take approximately 14 minutes.

“As America’s Friendliest Airport, our goal is to provide world-class customer service to every customer every day,” said Director of Aviation Services, James E. Bennett. “The extension of the PHX Sky Train® to the Rental Car Center is another way for us to deliver this outstanding service. The completion of this project will provide a faster and more seamless connection between the Rental Car Center and airport terminals. It is an integral part of our ground transportation programme and will also reduce roadway congestion.”

Construction of Rental Car Center in September 2019

Construction of Rental Car Center in September 2019

The project’s construction phases

This project has been years in the making with Stage 1 of the PHX Sky Train® opening in April 2013. That stage connected Sky Harbor’s busiest terminal, Terminal 4, with East Economy Parking and the 44th Street and Washington PHX Sky Train® Station which provides a quick connection to Valley Metro Light Rail.

In December 2014, Stage 1A opened connecting the PHX Sky Train® to Terminal 3. In early 2018, the airport broke ground on Stage 2 of the project. The $700 million project is being paid for with Rental Car Center Customer Facility Charges and airline Passenger Facility Charges. No local tax dollars are used. The project is slated for completion in 2022.

Those travelling through Phoenix Sky Harbor will notice many changes to the landscape as construction has been taking place. The area is being transformed with new guideways as well as new stations. In addition to the construction of a station at the Rental Car Center, construction of a station for a future West Ground Transportation Center is also taking place and the airport is planning a future station for an additional west terminal.

Programme Manager, Anne Kurtenbach, said the project has already achieved several milestones.

“We have completed several sections of the fixed guideway facility (primary deck) and we have turned over to the system supplier for installation of the running surfaces, switches and system operating equipment. The topping-off of the Rental Car Center Station is anticipated in mid-December.”

PHX Sky Train construction at 24th Street Station

PHX Sky Train construction at 24th Street Station

Kurtenbach also stated that vehicle production has started with the first set of vehicles expected to arrive in Phoenix in summer 2020.

Construction on the project is projected to be complete in the summer of 2021. At that time, the system supplier will begin integration testing. This means that airport visitors will see vehicles running on the new system as they begin integration with the existing system. The vehicles will not be carrying passengers. Kurtenbach said full system testing will then occur in the second quarter of 2022. The overall duration of the complete test programme is approximately 14 months.

Once the full system is operational, the trains will be configured with three cars. A total of 24 additional train cars will be added as part of Stage 2, bringing the total number of cars up to 42.

Additionally, the Maintenance Facility for the project is being expanded; adding approximately 32,500 square feet of space. It will be constructed of 52 tilt-wall concrete panels ranging in height from 16-32 feet. The expansion will also include a train car washing facility.

PHX’s Rental Car Center Station

Kurtenbach confirmed that the Rental Car Center Station has a few unique features. “The Rental Car Center Station is the only station on the system that is a triple platform. It has one platform in the centre for boarding and two platforms on the outside for deboarding.”

The Rental Car Center Station will also feature public art. Like the other PHX Sky Train® Stations, there will be terrazzo flooring by a local artist. Phoenix artist Bill Dambrova is designing the unique floor which will feature brilliant shapes and colours. Travellers and community members alike frequently comment on the beauty of the one-of-a-kind terrazzo art floors in the PHX Sky Train® stations and this new addition will continue to enrich the travellers’ experience. In addition, the Rental Car Center station will feature an artist-designed colourful wind wall screen in the open-air area of the boarding section of the platform. That piece will be designed by R and R Studios, Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt based in Miami.

What the Rental Car Center Station will look like

What the Rental Car Center Station will look like

Unique facts about Stage 2 of the PHX Sky Train®

  • There are 137 columns that make up the guideway
  • Guideway column shafts at the West Terminal Station are 10 feet wide and 120 feet deep (largest)
  • Average precast beam weight = 125,000 pounds
  • Number of precast tubs shipped to the site and erected on columns = 324
  • Amount of soil excavated from Taxiway U&V undercrossing = 70,000 cubic yards (equivalent to 21 Olympic-size swimming pools)
  • Guideway between Terminals 2 and 3 is wide enough for an RJ-900 aircraft to pass through/under
  • Primary power system consists of 66 miles of medium voltage cabling
  • The project is LEED Silver certified.


Heather Shelbrack is the Public Information Manager for the City of Phoenix Aviation Department, which includes Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and two general aviation airports (Phoenix Deer Valley and Phoenix Goodyear). She holds bachelor’s degrees in Telecommunications and History from Indiana University and a Master’s degree in Communications from the Johns Hopkins University. Shelbrack is chair of the Advisory Council for USO Arizona as well as a member of the Airport’s Council International – North America’s (ACI-NA) Marketing and Communications Steering Group.