A three-phase, $41.9 million expansion and modernization project kicked off Friday morning at Tri-Cities Airport.
The project, expected to be complete in December 2016, calls for building new departure and arrival wings, revamping the ticket and baggage claim areas, and expanding the terminal to include additional screening lanes.
"This will be a large economic development for the Tri-Cities," said Port of Pasco Commissioner Jim Klindworth. "We had very good leadership and planning on this project, and we hope this project will take us into the next 20 years."
Kris Watkins, president and CEO of the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau, called the airport a regional "economic engine."
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Visitor spending in Benton and Franklin counties totals $398.2 million annually and supports about 5,200 jobs, Watkins said. Increasing airport traffic should help boost those figures.
Phase one construction begins this month and is scheduled to run through September 2015. It includes the building of a new wing that will house three gates, as well as the remodeling of the existing baggage claim, which should include car rental offices once finished. During construction, the baggage claim will be moved to a temporary structure on the east side of the terminal past the ticket counters.
Phase two, scheduled from September 2015 to June 2016, calls for the demolition of the gates and a remodeling of a portion of the terminal. In place of the gates, there will be an expanded security and screening area as well as a restaurant, lounge and bar near the new wing. A second new wing with two gates should also be built, as well as a baggage screening area that will sit behind the ticket counters.
The third and final phase, set to be built between June 2016 and December 2016, should include a remodeled ticketing area and the front of the terminal.
Seating should increase from 240 to 480 by the time the expansion project is complete, said airport director Ron Foraker. The airport's interior design should reflect the region's geography, heritage and culture.
Tri-Cities Airport, the fourth-largest air carrier airport in the state, has experienced robust recent growth -- the number of departing passengers has grown by more than 100,000 annually in the past five years.
A 2012 study showed the airport was undersized by about 11 percent, according to the Port of Pasco, which operates the facility. The airport would be 25 percent undersized in the next 10 years without the expansion.
The expansion will be paid for by user fees and federal grants and entitlements. It's the airport's largest building endeavor since the initial terminal construction in 1966. The last major expansion was done in 1986.
The airport will operate throughout the expansion project.
-- Drew Foster: 509-582-1513; email@example.com