Windfall benefits Duluth airport terminal project
Leftovers can be a good thing. It was good for the Duluth International Airport that money was left over from other airport projects as Sept. 30 approached. That's the end of the year as far as the federal government's fiscal calendar is concerne...
Leftovers can be a good thing.
It was good for the Duluth International Airport that money was left over from other airport projects as Sept. 30 approached. That's the end of the year as far as the federal government's fiscal calendar is concerned. And it meant that more than $3 million from the Federal Aviation Administration was available toward the ongoing construction of a new terminal in Duluth.
It also means the $65 million project still is on schedule for completion in fall 2012, according to Brian Ryks, executive director of the Duluth Airport Authority.
The additional money was announced last week in a news release from Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, and Rep. Jim Oberstar, all D-Minn.
Such announcements come along from time to time and can appear to be pro forma when a project already is under way. But this piece of the funding was no sure thing, Ryks said.
"The funding we just received was not a slam-dunk by any means," Ryks said on Friday. "We knew going into this year that we would get about $6.5 million from FAA, but we had hoped for more, and we hoped for more because we had these additional elements that
we wanted to get under contract."
And as the project continues to move forward, the FAA has even more reason to approve funding in the future, Ryks said. The $11.7 million in state bonding money the Legislature approved this year was critical, he said.
So the work, which began with site preparation in 2009, continues with the beginning of terminal construction. Crews have been pouring foundations during the past couple of weeks, and the steel frame will start to come up within the next few weeks, all of which will bring an influx of additional construction workers. Ryks said 136 construction workers were at the site last year; he wasn't sure of the number so far this year.
What airport users have noticed so far is a longer walk to the terminal. The new building is going up where the old short-term parking lot was, and all but handicapped parking is in the old long-term lot. Visitors have to walk around the construction site on either side to get to the terminal.
The good news: Enclosed walkways will be installed soon. It's hoped to have the east side enclosed by mid-October and the west side by late October, Ryks said.
"What I ask people is to understand there's going to be some inconveniences," Ryks said. "We'll do our best to keep those to a minimum, but recognize the long-term resolution will be a much-improved facility from what it currently is."
In the news release, Oberstar mentioned a couple of those improvements.
"The old Duluth terminal building was a good facility when it was built, but it is inadequate to meet modern safety and security requirements," Oberstar said. "Passengers who have cleared security do not have access to restrooms, and the tails of jets parked at the terminal protrude onto the active taxiway."