MISSOULA — With work nearing completion on the new Missoula Montana Airport passenger terminal nearing completion, attention will now turn to replacement or rehabilitation of the existing terminal.
When the new passenger terminal was dedicated earlier this week, it marked one of the largest milestones in decade for Missoula's airport. Culminating more than 6-years of planning, the terminal will bring state-of-the-art technology and design to Western Montana air travel. But more importantly, the $70-million project is coming in under budget. Something that gets a big "thumbs up" from Senator Jon Tester.
"Because these projects are driven from the ground up they're critically important," Tester told me while touring the new terminal this week. "And when good planning is done, as this has been happening here, you can see the dollars actually working in a way that's going to multiply moving forward. Because of the economic growth that this project right here is going to create."
With the bulk of passenger operations moving to the new terminal, airport administrators are now hoping to embark on a course of updating, and then expanding operations into the old terminal space.
While Senator Tester is very thrilled with the way the money was spent on Phase One, I asked him about the prospects of finding funding for Phase Two and Three, especially in a very competitive environment.
"Montana is growing. This is not something that is where we ought to do it. This is something that's essential and had to be done," Tester noted. "And just as the next two phases are going to go forth and they have to be done if we're going to grow, create economy, and have opportunity for businesses to succeed and quality of life here for working families."
But Missoula isn't the only community making a similar case. Other airports, including ones in Montana, are also clamoring for upgrades as air travel begins to make a strong rebound in the post-pandemic world. However Tester the successful completion of projects like the new terminal will help Montana's delegation make a pitch for more funding over the next two to three years.
"It absolutely does. It depends on who you talk to, but from my perspective, when you talk about building infrastructure, if you can show folks the brick and mortar that's happened because of the appropriations we've made it makes much better sense."