MISSOULA - There's still work to be done at the new Missoula Montana Airport terminal, but crews are adding the finishing touches while aiming for a May opening.
It seems like a pre-pandemic lifetime ago when the airport started construction on the new terminal in 2018.
But through all the COVID-19 disruptions, the contractors and airport's "Team MSO" prevailed, and were ready to show off the nearly finished terminal to a select group Tuesday morning.
"In addition to all in this commitment, we're delivering a truly state-of-the-art facility with everything from an automated beverage system, geothermal heating, cooling, lighting, electric window glazing. And escalators, yes escalators. And when that escalator goes into service, it will be the only escalator in Western Montana." - Missoula Airport Authority board member Adriane Beck
The new $67 million terminal becomes the new "hub" for passenger air operations, with new ticketing areas, and a direct baggage handling system where travelers can merely check luggage, instead of dragging it through the airport.
The project is also under budget. Something earning praise from US Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) who is happy to see impact and development funds put to good use.
"It's up to the local communities to really utilize these dollars in a way that makes sense for those communities, and that's what's happened here,” Sen. Tester said.
“We've seen them make smart investments in infrastructure that's going to stand the test of time," Sen. Tester continued.
"Team MSO embodies everything Montanans know. Everything is much easier if we work together, added airport director Brian Ellestad.
But what impresses the most is how the terminal's vision, of improving vision, is apparent at every turn.
The view from the waiting area is absolutely stunning. In fact, you may not want to catch your plane, as the open windows show a complete view of the Missoula Valley and the mountains.
Windows upon windows are really the theme of the design.
Travelers will enjoy Missoula area food and beverage vendors can listen to control tower traffic in the observation area, complete with a "flight chart" wall and gas fireplace.
The outcome certainly impressed former airport director Cris Jensen, who kicked off the project and came back from Reno today to see the results.
“You know it's great. It really makes me proud to see what the community's accomplished and all the partnerships that have made it happen. And it's going to be amazing for generations to come. This will set the airport up for future growth, future airlines, future visitors. And so, it's really nice and it really does make me proud." - former Missoula airport director Cris Jensen
The terminal should become operational in May.
Construction of the new terminal racked up some pretty impressive numbers since construction began in the fall of 2018.
The new terminal includes more than 89 miles of electrical wire throughout the facility, nine miles of piping, over 22,000 square feet of glass and 1,034 tons of steel -- including one column weighing nearly 26,000 pounds.
The state-of-the-art baggage handling system will not only improve efficiency and security but will also be fast, requiring just seven milliseconds to read a luggage tag.