Tri-Cities Airport expansion waits on FAA grant

Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldSeptember 13, 2013 

Port of Pasco officials are hoping to hear within the next week on a potential $8 million Federal Aviation Administration grant for the Tri-Cities Airport expansion.

Port commissioners were told this week that the projected cost has risen to $40 million from $35 million. They expressed concern that they may have to seriously consider phasing the project if the FAA grant does not come their way this month or next year.

Port Commissioner Ron Reimann said he expected the cost of the terminal would grow, but not quite that high.

Port Commission President Jean Ryckman said commissioners still want to avoid having to phase the terminal remodel.

"Every penny has to be pinched as we go forward," she said.

The expansion will double the terminal's size from almost 55,000 to 110,000 square feet. Consultant Mead & Hunt is at the 30 percent stage with the final design.

The project includes moving the staircase and restrooms to the front of the terminal building to open up the area near the security checkpoint. Security, ticketing and baggage areas also would be expanded. A new concourse beyond the security area would feature a view of the airfield, with gates to the right and left.

The most the port could bond while using passenger facility charges from airline tickets and airport cash to pay the debt service is $23 million, said Linda O'Brien, the port's finance and administration director. The port can use $10.9 million from airport cash reserves and net operating revenues and $1.7 million in federal Airport Improvement Program dollars.

Ron Foraker, Tri-Cities Airport director, told commissioners that the $8 million from the FAA would come from discretionary money that was originally meant for projects nationwide that did not move forward.

But without that grant, there is a $4.5 million gap between the new cost estimate and anticipated funding, O'Brien said.

If the discretionary grant is not received, the port still has a chance of receiving 2014 FAA dollars in April, Foraker said.

Port Executive Director Jim Toomey said the port still needs to talk to its congressional representatives about the need for additional grants to pay for the expansion.

The $40 million estimate for the terminal expansion includes an extra 15 percent contingency, on top of the 5 percent contingency that is required by state law, because the port has chosen to use a General Contractor/Construction Manager process for the project, said Randy Hayden, the port's deputy executive director.

Port commissioners unanimously approved a $334,000 pre-construction contract with Bouten Construction Co., the company that was earlier chosen as the General Contractor/Construction Manager in a competitive process.

The port commission can choose to hire Bouten Construction as the general contractor for the remodel after the company presents port officials with a maximum allowable construction cost, Toomey said. As part of the process, that cost becomes contractual.

If the remodel costs more, Bouten Construction will pay for it themselves, he said. If the cost is less, the port will benefit from the lower price tag.

Bouten Construction would then hire subcontractors, who would compete through a public bidding process, he said. That process would likely occur during the spring.

Construction may begin as soon as July, Toomey said.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512;

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