Parking expands at airport

PASSENGER traffic at the Northwest Regional Airport keeps growing, cracking the 200,000 mark for the fiscal year ending March 31.

PASSENGER traffic at the Northwest Regional Airport keeps growing with the not-for-profit operation cracking the 200,000 mark for the fiscal year ending March 31.

The exact number, 201,636, from April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014, is a dramatic increase from the previous fiscal year (April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013) when the passenger count was 142,622.

“That’s a difference of 59,014 passengers, a 41 per cent increase,” says airport manager Carman Hendry.

That the increase is from last spring to the end of this March reveals the extent of projects either underway or being planned.

There’s a push on by Rio Tinto Alcan to complete its Kitimat aluminum smelter modernization project, the Red Chris copper mine up north is due to open in June, BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line, which will feed power to the Red Chris mine is in its final stages and there’s a ramp-up by liquefied natural gas companies and pipeline companies as they continue work on preliminary pipeline and plant work.

The result is pressure at the airport on everything from the restaurant to parking.

“If you want to find a table at the restaurant for lunch, you’d better be there by 11 a.m.,” notes Hendry.

More pressing is the need to supply long-term parking spots for the hundreds of vehicles left by people departing for extended periods.

The parking immediately adjacent to the terminal building is for car rental companies and for day or shorter term stays.

A tour of the current long-term parking area across the road reveals trucks with new and unfamiliar business names hailing from B.C. and Alberta.

Although the airport has asking people to catch rides to the airport to relieve pressure on the parking that’s there now, there’s been a constant demand for parking spots, said Hendry.

“We thought we’d get a bit of a break after Christmas, but no,” he said.

The demand for parking explains the clearing work on the right hand side of Neubacher Way, the access road from Hwy16 leading to the terminal.

When finished, the airport will have expanded its long-term parking, making room for a total of 800 vehicles in all.

One piece of good fortune is a vein of rock uncovered as trees were removed and heavy equipment took off the overburden.

“We’re bringing in a crusher and that’s going to give us material for the parking lot and to redo Bristol Road East,” said Hendry, the latter referring to the section of Bristol Road containing Hawkair’s offices as well as other aviation companies.

There will also be enough material to use in the construction of an additional aircraft parking pad beside the others near the airside passenger entry and exit doors of the terminal building.

That’s to better accommodate periods when the four commercial airlines now using the airport have aircraft arrivals and departures at roughly the same times.

Best of all for the airport is the savings in material because the rock to be crushed was found on airport land.

“We estimate the savings at $340,000 in material costs,” said Hendry.

As the airport is expanding its parking space, one of the car rental companies at the airport is also making changes.

The National Car and Truck Rental Company is building a vehicle wash and detailing building beside the 747 Air Cadet building. It’ll make operations more efficient.