Airport expedites terminal project to tap federal funding; approves engineering contract

Funding included in the federal spending bill has prompted Missoula International Airport to expedite its plans to construct a new passenger terminal, with several phases of the project expected to go to bid this summer.

That could include a new airport access road and demolition of the current terminal’s security wing, along with foundation work and steel for a new concourse.

“It has the potential to change the dynamics of our funding scenario,” airport director Cris Jensen said Tuesday. “The FAA has told us we need to get into a position where we can accept some of this additional funding. It means having shovel-ready projects.”

President Donald Trump signed the spending bill into law in March. It included $1 billion for airport infrastructure projects with a focus on small and non-hub airports, such as Missoula.

Funding earmarked for terminal projects is capped at $20 million, airport officials have said.

“We need to get some elements of the terminal project designed and ready to go to bid so if the FAA says we have money, we’d have some work elements,” said Jensen. “We’ll break out some packages and accelerate the design so Martel (Construction) can bid it out.”

The terminal project will take place in phases over several years, though the final design looks to create eight aircraft gates in two concourses, with room to accommodate today’s passenger loads and larger aircraft.

Some of the work could begin this year if federal funding is received, including demolition of the airport’s western wing. The airport could bid that project, along with concrete and steel for the first new concourse, this August.

The federal fiscal year ends in September, and the design team is moving several projects forward to make bidding possible.

“It could be any parts and pieces we can break off – structural steel, jet bridges,” said Shaun Shea with Morrison-Maierle. “It could be anything we can get into this bid package to maximize the money the FAA is allocating to the project.”

While the project doesn’t have an overall price tag just yet, the airport currently has $11.5 million on hand, though it’s looking to receive the full amount authorized in the spending bill.

On Tuesday, the Missoula County Airport Authority also approved a resolution to enact a “passenger facility charge” to raise roughly $37 million for the terminal project. Airport officials met with the airlines this week and received general support for the charge, which amounts to $4.50 per ticket.

The airport authority also approved a $4.3 million engineering agreement with Morrison-Maierle to finish several phases of design for the terminal. It also authorized a $97,000 per-construction agreement with Martel.

“It takes us through the first wing of the building, and it gets us into position where we have the work elements to put out sooner,” Jensen said. “This is the official kickoff.”

The airport will be asked to approve vertical construction for the new terminal in September 2019. Much of the prep work will be done prior to that.

“We’ve moved some things back and accelerated others a little bit, but this is how we’re looking at the project right now,” said Steve Martel. “It completes a week before Christmas in 2021.”