Airport project nearing finish

Posted: Thursday, April 15, 2004

ANCHORAGE 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.

Work on the 447,200-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 back the schedule.

The new concourse is scheduled to open for business June 30. A public open house is planned for June 29.

''I am extremely pleased with the progress that has been made on the concourse,'' said Morton V. Plumb Jr., airport director.

Airport executives, contractors, airline representatives and officials with the Transportation Security Administration en-gaged in a series of meetings this winter to plan the transition, Plumb said, and they all are eager to finish the job.

There are two major considerations for the opening.

''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 said.

Initial cost estimates for the project, including demolition of the old concourse and subsequent construction of 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 such as new jetways for passengers, a new fueling station and other ''apron work.''

During construction, seismic upgrades were added to the plans, increasing costs by about $100 million. Planners also determined that much more space would be needed for security operations, which also ran up the overall cost.

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

Funding for the new facility will come from airport revenue bonds, paid for by airport tenants, including airlines and vendors. Cliff Argue, an Alaska Airlines executive and chair of an airport airline affairs committee representing 26 carriers doing business at the Anchorage airport, said the overall project is moving along well.

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

The state-owned airport pays for itself through a variety of means, Argue said. Airlines pay landing fees and rent, concessionaires pay their leases, and all revenue is collected into a ''general register'' that repays the construction bonds, 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 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.

Plumb is confident the pieces eventually will fit together.

''All of the concessions are not going to be open when the new terminal is opened,'' Plumb said. ''But many of them are ready.''

At the far western end of the terminal, there will be a new cocktail lounge called Legends.

''There is a Chili's Too restaurant coming in. I'm told it will be the largest Chili's Too in any airport in the United States,'' Plumb said. ''We'll have a Starbucks and a Sourdough Mercantile franchise, and the Hudson Group will have several newsstands and stores.''

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