CONSTRUCTION could start the middle of the year to expand the Northwest Regional Airport’s main terminal building in a project worth $16.9 million, making it more comfortable for passengers and more efficient for airlines.
Speaking last week, airport manager Carman Hendry said he’s expecting to hear by the end of May if its application for money from a federal/provincial program called Build Canada will be accepted.
This is a program in which the province would chip in one-third or $4.5 million, the federal government another one-third and the airport the remaining one-third for a total $13.715 million, he said.
That covers eligible costs Build Canada will help finance but the airport will have to pay a further figure of just under $3.2 million all by itself for other, ineligible costs, added Hendry to meet the project budget.
“Things like permits and licences and furnishings, those are considered non-eligible,” he said.
A newly-introduced airport improvement fee of $7 a passenger on outgoing flights will help the airport accumulate the capital it needs. “It’s a fee designated for the terminal project and when it’s done, will be taken off,” said Hendry.
Provided the news from Build Canada is good, Hendry said requests for bids will go out in quick order. “We expect that to happen within six weeks,” he said. “As soon as that, we’ll be ready to go.”
Leading up to that period, the not-for-profit airport society which runs the airport has asked the City of Terrace to either waive or consider as a donation in-kind the $133,000 it would normally charge for the expansion project’s permits and licences.
“It’s one of those expenses not eligible under Build Canada,” said Hendry of the request. He hopes to hear an answer from the city by the end of May, the same time as word is expected from Build Canada.
Large increases in passenger traffic beginning several years ago have put a strain on airport services.
Current planning has the expansion project taking approximately two years.
By the time construction is expected to be complete, the terminal building will be 40 per cent larger than it is now with a more spacious holding area for departing passengers, new and larger check in and baggage drop off facilities, more room for security clearing and renovated office and counter space for airlines.
The addition will be 1,534 square metres in size and the area to be renovated within the current terminal will be 1,110 square metres for a total terminal building size of 4,101 square metres when construction is completed.
Hendry points to the larger departing passenger hold room as an example of the airport’s emphasis on passenger comfort.
The current hold room can comfortably contain about 80 people but with airlines now departing within minutes of each other, more space is needed.
What’s being planned is a hold room of approximately 190 seats and separate departure gates for each airline.
New check in and baggage facilities will also improve the traffic flow for passengers prior to going through security, he added.
“We’re also looking at self serve [check in] kiosks,” Hendry continued.
The expansion will allow for two security clearing lines to be installed but only one will be built for the time being.
First quarter statistics show the airport handled 53,474 passengers on scheduled flights, a figure lower than the first quarter of 2014 total of 57,591 passengers on scheduled flights.
But the overall first quarter figure is very comparable to 2014’s first quarter when charter numbers for each time period are added in, said Hendry.
Those charter numbers are primarily flights for shift changes for companies working at Rio Tinto Alcan’s massive Kitimat aluminum smelter re-construction project.
That project is going to start winding down as the year goes on and Hendry expects a dip in overall passenger numbers beginning in the summer.