Press-Republican

December 29, 2011

Airport Committee endorses expansion conceptual plan

Representatives provide details of conceptual plan

DAN HEATH
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — A conceptual plan for the expansion of Plattsburgh International Airport was unveiled Wednesday.

Representatives of McFarland Johnson, the firm the legislature chose to oversee the expansion earlier this year, and URS, the company that is creating the plans, provided the committee members with two preferred plans.

The Clinton County Legislature's Airport Committee reached a consensus to move forward with a two-story terminal that would connect to the southern end of the present terminal and have six gates with jet bridges in an east-west configuration.

URS Aviation Department Manager Mark Mosko said Federal Aviation Administration projections show the airport serving about 300,000 passengers a year by 2030. The plan calls for an almost 99,000-foot terminal, including reuse and renovation of the 31,000-sqaure-foot existing terminal.

URS architect Daniel Shimelis Kebede said the plans were developed with an eye toward minimal interference with airport operation during construction, efficiency, preserving maximum apron space, internal flexibility, future expansion and cost. He said that since each concept is about the same size, there should be little difference in cost.

The county expects to bond for the expansion costs.

"The goal has been to do it, but not on the tax levy," County Administrator Michael Zurlo said.

Brown said the county gets about $1 million for parking lot revenue and passenger fees it receives that can go toward the cost.

Kebede said the east-west concept works well for phasing construction, as one side with three gates can be built and operational before work starts on the second side.

He said expansion of the old terminal would allow for 14 ticket counters where there are only three at present. It also allows the bag screening area to be moved away from the ticket counters.

The first floor of the new terminal would have space for outgoing baggage organization and a Federal Inspection Facility for potential future international travel.

Kebede said future expansion would require a satellite concourse to the south with shuttle service. Deputy County Administrator Rodney Brown said that wouldn't be needed until the airport approaches 1 million enplanements, while Airport Committee Chairman Robert Heins said there is room for an extra gate on each end of the design.

Legislature Chairman Jimmy Langley said he was initially in favor of the north-south concept rather than one with a satellite concourse for future expansion. He changed his mind once he heard those numbers.

McFarland Johnson Senior Project Manager Michael Churchill said the plan also includes redesign of traffic flow to and from Route 22 and an increase in parking.

The former could be done with a traffic light and dedicated turn lanes or with a rotary, he said. Churchill said the rotary concept would work nicely, and provide a location for airport entrance markers.

Based on projections, the number of parking spaces would need to increase from 1,600 at present to about 4,000. He said that could be done with at-grade lots or a five-story parking garage, with the latter at a significant cost increase.

Langley said the need for additional parking is already evident, as there were 2,300 cars there Wednesday.

Brown said the concept is more flexible for aircraft movement.

Mark Molnar, a division manager at McFarland Johnson, said they had four initial conceptual plans, but two were eliminated at the first Terminal Expansion Plan Committee meeting held Nov. 10. He said they plan to return with a more detailed plan on the preferred plan Jan. 25, which will include a cost assessment.

The firm plans to have a draft environmental assessment by mid-February and a final one by May. That will be submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval.

The timetable presently calls for a final design in 2013, with construction completed in 2015.

The other design had a north-south configuration. That was better for later expansion, as it could be connected and extend south.

It would be worse for snow removal, especially with frequent west winds.

The expansion plans are fueled by rapid growth at the airport.

The number of enplanements has grown from 43,945 in 2008 to 95,260 in 2010. Clinton County Airport used to fly about 2,500 passengers a year.

Airport Manager Christopher Krieg said there had been 124,000 enplanements by the end of November, and the total could reach 140,000 by the end of the year. He said no one can deny the success of the service at Plattsburgh International.

"That's quite a significant jump. It's time to expand the terminal."

Email Dan Heath at:

dheath@pressrepublican.com