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Covered parking a priority for airport expansion

Committee - including feds, airlines, cruise ship industry - works on scope

Posted: Sunday, February 06, 2005

The terminal of the Juneau International Airport leaves a lot to be desired.

The roof is leaking. Because of lack of space, the National Weather Service rents a mobile office at the airport. Parking is limited. In the winter, passengers have to drag luggage across snow to their cars.

Airport administrators and users say the terminal needs to be expanded, not just for its current usage but for future growth.

During the past six months, an 18-member committee - including representatives from the cruise ship industry, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration and the airlines- has met to identify priorities and the scope for an expansion.

"The overall objective of this project is to develop a terminal, airside and landside plan that can be implemented in phases over 25 years," said Tony Yorba, project manager for the expansion.

Committee members said top priorities include expanding the baggage claim area, building a covered parking structure, consolidating regional carrier space, and improving road traffic flow.

Airport planning consultants have come up with three concepts.

"All three concepts capture the priorities but address them in different manners," said Joe Barden, an aviation planning consultant.

Concept A improves terminal circulation by dividing the current curb space into three areas - one for small carrier commuters, one for Alaska Airline passengers, and the third for arriving passengers.

In this plan, the federal inspection services, including customs and immigration offices, would be located next to the baggage claim area.

Concept B creates better passenger flow by building a long curb area outside the terminal. The area would have signs to direct arriving and departing passengers and be designed particularly to handle the large volume of passengers at the peak season.

Concepts A and B involve demolishing 30,000 square feet, renovating 50,000 square feet, and adding 60,000 square feet to the terminal. Although both projects are preliminarily estimated at $45 million, concept B might cost a little more than concept A because its configuration is more complicated, Barden said.

Concept C makes the fewest changes among the three. It keeps the current curb area. It does have a federal inspection services space but it is only big enough to handle international passengers from such places as Whitehorse, Canada.

Like A and B, concept C would demolish the north wing of the airport and refurbish 50,000 square feet. But it adds only 35,300 square feet to the building.

All the options would add an international arriving facility, expand baggage claim areas, increase security screening space, and include concessions in the after-securities site.

Larry Johansen, Southeast regional manager of Cruise West, said he likes concepts A and B.

"The flow of cruise ship passengers won't be intrusive to the airport operation," Johansen said. "Right now, the cruise ship passengers get off at the curb and have to walk all the way to the other side of the terminal."

Catherine Wilkins, city project architect, said the three concepts are general and can be adjusted according to needs.

"We can take the best of each and smash them together," Wilkins said.

A covered parking garage located at the current parking lot would be included in the project. The garage would be a two-story building with 600 stalls. Whether to add a third floor would depend on the funding.

Funding for the project is a major concern.

The covered parking garage would cost about $10 million but it cannot be funded through parking fees alone. Much of the revenue collected through parking fees helps operate and maintain the terminal, said Ken Sura, a financial consultant.

Sura said the terminal reconstruction will be funded primarily through airport revenues and passenger fees. Tax dollars may be only a small part of the overall finance plan. Sura is drafting a funding mechanism for the project.

The committee will review the three options and submit a final plan to the airport board in March.

• I-Chun Che can be reached at ichun.che@juneauempire.com.



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