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Airport facelift nears completion

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Airport facelift nears completion

By Robert Howk

Alaska Journal of Commerce

After years of delays and cost overruns, construction of a new concourse at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport will be completed in time for the bulk of this summer's tourist traffic, airport director Mort Plumb says.

Work on the 447,000-square-foot Concourse C began in 1999 and was expected to be finished by the summer of 2002, but design revisions and increased security requirements put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the East Coast pushed the schedule back.

Plumb said he couldn't name the day doors will open to the public, but he said it will be early this summer. "Certainly June, sometime, would be a good estimate," he said. "We will probably make a declaration about opening day during the first week of May."

Airport executives, contractors, airline representatives and officials with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) engaged in a series of meetings this winter to plan the transition into the new facility, Plumb said, and they all are eager to finish the job.

"We're in pretty good shape," to meet the final completion, Plumb said.

He said there are two major factors driving the opening deadline.

"We have contractual issues with the construction folks, and they have a certain amount of time in which to deliver. We need to ensure that we get a certificate of occupancy," from the Municipality of Anchorage, Plumb said.

"Also, for the opening, we have to coordinate with the TSA and all the airlines, because we'll be in the middle of one of our busy seasons," Plumb added.

Initial cost estimates of the project, including demolition of the old concourse and subsequent construction of the airport's Concourse C, were in the range of $230 million.

Dave Eberle, director of airport construction for the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities said the price tag now is approximately $408 million for the entire project. That includes the cost of demolition and rebuilding of Concourse C, a major remodeling of Concourses A and B, and upgrades to the "airside" of Concourse C: New jetways for passengers, a new fueling station and other "apron work," he said.

During construction, seismic upgrades were added to the plans, adding approximately $100 million to the budget, and planners also determined that much more space would be needed for security operations, which also ran up the overall cost.

When it opens, the concourse will have nine passenger gates and a ticketing area, a security checkpoint, airport offices and several new vendors.

Plumb said construction costs of the new Concourse C, including $10 million in federal funds for improvements to the passenger and vehicle ramp, are about $228 million.

Funding to pay for the new facility will come from airport revenue bonds, paid for by airport tenants, including airlines and vendors.

Cliff Argue, chairman of an airport airline affairs committee representing 26 carriers doing business at the Anchorage airport and vice president of airport affairs for Alaska Airlines, he said the overall project is moving along well.

"We've been working through all those funding issues in the last year," he said.

Argue explained that the state-owned airport pays for itself through a variety of means.

Airlines pay landing fees and rent, concessionaires pay their leases, and all revenues are collected into a "general register" that repays the bonds for construction, he said.

However, expenses for the new concourse may translate into increased passenger fares in the future, Argue said.

"It is certainly going to have an impact, eventually, on airfares," he said.

Meanwhile, the new structure is emerging, with workers pouring concrete floors, running wiring bundles and hustling to button the job up in time for the busy summer season.

"Our contractors are working very hard in there, along with the state, to be ready whenever they are. We're excited and looking forward to the opening," he said.

Airport director Morton Plumb is confident the pieces will fit together, if not all at once. "All of the concessions are not going to be open when the new terminal is opened," Plumb said. "But many of them are ready."

"There is a Chilli's Too restaurant coming in. I'm told it will be the largest Chilli's Too in any airport in the United States.

chilistoologo.jpg

"We'll have a Starbucks and a Sourdough Mercantile franchise, and the Hudson Group will have several newsstands and stores," Plumb said. At the far western end of the terminal, he said, there will be a new cocktail lounge called "Legends."

Despite construction delays and a plethora of headaches to accompany the snafus, Plumb said he is satisfied with the overall results.

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haha well its nice to see you pop over here and bring us some news from your neck of the woods btw have you checked out the secret gossip forum lately? ;)

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urbanguy, i got a brand new pc.. so i dont know the url to hiakustarr

MARK - you mean as if Seattle is the gateway to the rest of the lower 48?

no. Alaska Airlines serves flights straight to Los Angeles (which i took in '01) along with San Jose, Orange County, and possibly San Francisco.

I'm not familiar with United, But i do know they go to other places aside from Seattle. I believe Delta makes non stop flights to Sean Reynolds ville which is their hub. I'm clueless for Continental and America West airlines.

also this summer for the first time - Frontier Airlines will start flying up to Anchorage straight from its hub in Denver.

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