The new Tri-Cities Airport terminal made its public debut Friday with a ribbon cutting and music. The flying public gets a look at the terminal when it goes into service Monday morning.
The Port of Pasco dedicated the $41.9 million upgrade and gave tours.
The expansion added a tall new terminal, security area and baggage handling system that means passengers may check their bags at the ticketing office and not haul them to the screeners.
The Federal Aviation Administration supported the project with a $20 million improvement grant. The Port of Pasco paid the balance of the project with airport revenue bonds, to be repaid with fees paid by airlines, passengers, car rental companies and other airport users.
Officials call it an important shot in the arm to modernize a growing regional airport that was last updated in 1989. Passenger demand has grown by 6 to 9 percent annually ever since.
State Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Richland, said the Tri-Cities airport is a crucial piece of transportation infrastructure that supports $1 million in new commercial leases and 500 jobs.
She said the airy post-and-beam terminal with its wood details creates a positive impression to passengers whether they’re arriving or departing.
“This facility creates a lasting human investment,” she said. “It’s the Tri-Cities. We get it done.”
U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said the new terminal is part of a continuing effort to keep airports, including small ones, viable. She noted the community received a $750,000 Community Air Service Development Grant to help establish a daily flight connecting Pasco to Los Angeles.
Roughly 150 Los Angeles-bound travelers leave the Tri-Cities each day but are forced to either drive to Seattle or Portland, or to switch airplanes there. Allegiant Air offers seasonal service to Los Angeles that is geared to leisure travelers rather than business.
With the new terminal, Cantwell said the prospects of securing regular service to Los Angeles are brighter.
“We’ll get it,” she said.
The Tri-Cities Airport serves a regional population of about 1 million people and regularly posts record passenger traffic. As of November, passenger traffic was running 9 percent ahead of 2015, with nearly 350,000 people flying.
Mead & Hunt designed the expansion. Boulten Construction was the general contractor.
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