Traci Holton, Professional Engineer (PE), spoke with the McMinnville Noon Rotary Club about the uniquely complex challenges of the $1.4 billion overhaul of BNA that is occurring while the airport itself remains operational. Holton, the chief engineer of the BNA Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority, was introduced by Rotarian Bill Zechman who likened the task to the prospects of re-building an engine while it’s still running.
For those who are long-time residents, it’s no secret that Nashville International Airport (or BNA as it’s designated) is a prime hub for Middle Tennessee domestic and international flights. The facility served over 18 million passengers last year alone. That number is expected to balloon to at least 20 million by the time the current fiscal year comes to a close at the end of June. Holton shared some information about the status of a massive expansion and modernization effort referred to as BNA Vision. The main goal is to keep the airport running at peak efficiency while still keeping the construction tasks rolling.
BNA Vision began in 2016 and was meant to get the airport ready to handle growth. By 2023 it is already apparent that much more growth is necessary to keep pace with the influx of domestic and international flights passing through. “It was supposed to last us till 2041. It’s 2023, and we realized about two years in that we wouldn’t last till the end of construction to have outgrown it,” Holton explained. Traffic through the airport has doubled in the last ten years. Even at pre-pandemic levels, BNA was dealing with up to 12,000 passengers per day in 2019.
BNA Vision was a $1.5 billion project, but Holton also shared some upcoming changes that are part of BNA New Horizon which will be another $1.5 billion expansion to the airport. In the past year alone, there have been many changes and additions. A new Hilton hotel with a rooftop bar and pool, new concourses and terminals, added concessions and a new marketplace are just a few of the changes. Holton added that BNA hopes to be able to handle 12,000 international passengers passing through customs per hour. BNA also plans to offer non-stop service to Asia in the coming years.