Juneau airport terminal readies for completion

Posted: Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Juneau International Airport is almost ready for its terminal project to be considered substantially complete.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

The airport has undertaken a project that expanded the airport terminal building, allowing for 10,000 square feet of additional usable space.

Catherine Fritz, airport architect, said there are essentially three portions to the project: the geothermal field, a two-story wall for departure and a new roof on the older portion of the building.

Fritz said they've added more open space in the building not only through the expansion, but also by installing the geothermal system. Because geothermal is used, they were able to take out the long mechanical room inside the building and relocate TSA screening.

"We put passenger screening in a better, more logical place," Fritz said.

Also with the geothermal system, they were able to put an ice melt system into the sidewalk out in front of the terminal, across the main crosswalk and in the taxi waiting area.

"That was operational at the very end of last winter," she said.

Jeannie Coneen, construction office assistant, said all the backlights are new too, and more energy efficient.

"We're trying to make it as green as possible for an airport," she said, adding it won't be as big of a return until the older portions of the building are redone.

Other new features are a community room, a down escalator, touch-screen hotel directory, plasma screen advertising in the luggage claim, a glass panel with a Juneau mountain and glacier scene and a lounge wall change with a new entrance. The project's 1 percent art funds will be spent on metal birds in different colors "flying" along the ceiling of the new wing.

Fritz said the construction process has gone very well.

"In a renovation project there can be a lot of things that can be discovered that you didn't anticipate," she said.

The portion of the building being renovated was built in 1985.

"We're about a month later than anticipated in being done," Fritz said. "Given the amount of changes that were because of unknowns or from opportunities that made sense to do, we believe it was very reasonable and are pleased with the completion time we have now," she said.

The project is coming in under budget, with an original initial phase estimate of $20 million. Fritz estimates the three portions of the project have probably cost about $14 million. Because of that, the airport board is looking at working on more projects on their list. So far, it has authorized more work in the departure lounge.

Coneen said the departure lounge was chaotic during busy periods with not enough seating for people and others would lay all over the floor. Now, there's additional space and some new seating will be purchased.

"We will refurbish all the existing chairs," she said. "Some are dilapidated and worn out. We're keeping what we can and will replace with new where we need to."

"We're just really thrilled to be able to give this portion of the project, this major milestone to our community," she said. "With the amount of travel people do we're confident people will be in and see the building."

Fritz said he hopes the community will feel like their tax dollars were spent wisely in the project with the implementation of geothermal and other energy efficient processes. She expects the energy costs to at least remain the same, if not decrease, even though the size of the building has increased.

"This is a public building we can all be proud of where we can support the businesses that operate within it and serve our traveling public," she said.

While Fritz is pleased with the work so far, she says there is still a lot that needs to be done. There are sections of the building that were built in 1948 and 1957 that will have to be completely demolished and rebuilt at some point in the near future.

"We still have needs we need to address," Fritz said. "Hopefully we'll be able to begin a second major phase."

While the airport terminal is reaching substantial completion, a punch list of tasks will need to be made and those remaining items completed. This does not include the work remaining in the departure lounge, which will eventually include an upgraded concessions area.

"It's important to thank everybody for their patience during the construction," Coneen said. "To renovate an operational airport takes a lot of coordination. The traveling public has been great."

The airport runway project is ongoing and won't be complete for at least a year.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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