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Terminal project at Missoula airport remains on budget, schedule despite early winter

Missoula International Airport
Posted at 8:47 AM, Oct 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-30 13:28:00-04

MISSOULA — Construction on the passenger terminal at Missoula International Airport remains on schedule and under budget, officials said this week, though the early onset of winter came unexpectedly.

With vertical construction nearly finished, the new facility is taking shape and is on pace to open at the end of next year.

“It’s easier to see things now that there’s actually walls and hallways to walk,” said Tim Damrow, the airport’s project director. “At a high level, things are looking pretty good.”

The roughly $70 million project broke ground last spring and has been advancing ever since. Exactly one year ago this week, the airport received the full $20 million in discretionary funding from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Airport officials had budgeted just $5 million for the project and were pleased with the additional boost. The added revenue helped keep the airport’s borrowing costs down.

Of the $20 million, $3.5 million remains on hand.

“We’re always looking for additional opportunities on that, whether it’s supplement, additional discretionary funding, or potential CARES funding in a subsequent act,” Damrow said. “We’re always looking for additional funding sources there.”

Damrow said other funding sources also have a remaining balance. Of the $7.2 million provided from entitlement funds, $2.6 million remains. Entitlement funds are based upon passenger enplanements. That pot of revenue is pledged through FY22, Damrow said.

The Missoula County Airport Authority also budgeted $37 million toward the project and $32.6 million remains. The budget earmarked for vertical construction, which accounts for around $54 million of the overall project, has a remaining contingency of $3.1 million, Damrow said.

“Not much has been spent from this to date,” Damrow said. “We’re hoping it stays that way for a good portion of the project, which will bring us in either at or under budget.”

The first phase of the terminal includes a new south concourse with five gates. Each holding room will seat 150 passengers – much more than the crowded confines of the existing terminal.

The facility also includes security screening, the lobby, ticketing and passenger amenities, including a bar and restaurant planned on the boarding side of security.

Faber Coe & Gregg won the food and beverage bid back in April. As part of the agreement, the new concessionaire will feature local companies, including Black Coffee Roasters and KettleHouse Brewing Co., both based in Missoula.

“Food and beverage construction is out to bid,” Damrow said. “We’re hoping to have it awarded at the end of this month.”

Most of the funding earmarked for the new terminal has been allocated, and the project remains on budget. Damrow said several final projects will go to bid later this year, including office furniture, seating for the holding rooms and a temporary baggage claim.

The baggage claim will be needed as the old facility comes down in the project’s second phase. The timing of that phase of work will likely depend upon future revenue streams and how the current project closes out.

“TSA is building out offices here at the airport as well as airlines making improvements to their spaces,” Damrow said. “We’ll see some additional funding come back to the airport as reimbursement for those phases being constructed.”

When the south concourse is complete, the airport will look to begin work on the east concourse. That will include an additional three gates, bringing the total number of gates at the airport to eight. Plans also allow room for expansion as service and passenger counts grow.

In the last few years, the airport has landed several new flights, including American Airlines to Dallas. Alaska Airlines will begin service San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco in March. Another carrier is looking to begin service to Calgary, which would mark the city’s first international flight.

Until then, crews are racing the onset of winter, which came early this year.

“The terminal construction continues to move along nicely and looks to be on track to have the building closed in for the winter,” airport director Cris Jensen said. “We only had two canceled flights during the entire (October) storm. During my 15 years here, it was by far the most intense storm I’ve witnessed.”