Phoenix airport's Sky Train is shutting down overnight. Here's what travelers should know

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Melissa Yeager
Arizona Republic

After breaking ground on an expansion in 2018, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport has nearly completed work on the second phase of the PHX Sky Train that links terminals with parking areas, Valley Metro and soon the Rental Car Center.

But the last segment of work that needs to happen before it opens next year may create a minor inconvenience for people traveling at night.

In order to open the new track to the Rental Car Center, the airport must test the trains and the track without passengers in order to certify it. Sky Harbor will be shutting down the Sky Train system overnight to do that testing.

"It takes about a year to fully test and certify the system as safe for passenger service. So we are about three months into our testing program right now and that's why you're seeing the nightly shutdowns," Anne Kurtenbach, special projects administrator for Sky Harbor, said. 

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What does the PHX Sky Train shutdown mean for travelers?

The current round of testing will last until Sept. 30. During that time, the airport will close the Sky Train between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. nightly. People traveling during that time will need to ride a shuttle bus from the 44th Street Station and East Economy parking lots to the terminals.

Kurtenbach said the time period was selected to give contractors full access to the Sky Train system for testing but affect the smallest amount of passengers.

"We look at our peak operating periods. We look at flight schedules and our passenger traffic, and that's how we determine the hours in which we would provide the shutdown for testing," Kurtenbach said.

If you're traveling during that time period, build extra time into your schedule for the shuttle, she said. The shuttles run every 20 minutes overnight when the Sky Train is closed.

When will the expanded Sky Train finally open?

Kurtenbach said they don't have an exact date of when the expansion will open, and periodic shutdowns for testing will continue. If you're traveling between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., make sure to check if the Sky Train is in service before you depart for the airport.

"It's going to continue through next summer, when the train is anticipated to open," Kurtenbach said.

She said she hopes travelers will appreciate the upgraded Sky Train service, which will get people to the Rental Car Center more quickly than via the shuttle buses currently in use. Getting those 84 buses off the road will reduce congestion outside the terminals and bring environmental benefits as well.

"Once we have full utilization of the Sky Train system to connect all our terminals with the Rental Car Center, it'll be well worth the wait. The Sky Train is such an important ground transportation asset to the airport that we think once it opens our passengers will agree," she said.

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