Because of the ever increasing amount of flyers taking advantage of the Alpena County Regional Airport and SkyWest Airlines, a construction project that will increase the size of the customer holding area is about to commence.
The area is used to "hold" passengers after they have cleared security, but the current room only holds 12 passengers and passenger screening is delayed until more room in the holding area is available. Simply put, the small size of the room is causing delays. Airport Manager Billi McRoberts said she has seen the new designs and the new holding area will be built in a totally different area of the terminal. She said it should hold more than triple what the current room does now. She said more work still needs to be done.
"It is going to be much larger and will be at the opposite end of the lobby. It should hold about 40 passengers, which is much more than what we hold now," McRoberts said. "It is still not the perfect fix but it will be good enough to help the airline and the Transportation Security Authority with their security procedures."
McRoberts said after the construction is complete the current holding area will have luggage delivered to it and will be used by travelers to collect it. She said the cost of the project will likely fall somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 and it is expected the Federal Aviation Administration will fund the project. McRoberts said it will be about a month before the work begins, but that it won't take long to complete if things go well.
"Right now we're still waiting on the final agreement between the architect and the airport and the FAA will review the plans and hopefully approve it. We will then put the job out for bids and hope to have the work started about July 1. I believe it would be completed by the end of July," McRoberts said. "Ultimately the FAA will have the final say because they would be the one funding it, but I don't foresee them turning us down, because it is a security issue."
If for some reason the FAA decides against funding the project the airport could pay for it via a state block grant it has received for improvements. McRoberts said there is roughly enough to pay for the new holding area, but hopes it can be used in some other manner. Since SkyWest has replaced Delta Airlines the number of enplanements has increased significantly and it has led to the airport being granted a $1 million subsidy from the FAA for exceeding 10,000 enplanements. Through April of this year the amount of people using the local airport has jumped 65 percent over 2012. The number of people that flew from January 1 through the end of April was 3,196 last year and has climbed to 5,267 so far in 2013. In April of 2012 there were only 770 who took flights, but this year there was an increase to 1,427. McRoberts said she expects the May numbers to be good as well.
"It has been very busy and the terminal lobby has been full," McRoberts said. "There are definitely people who are traveling and I think the numbers are going to continue to be strong."
McRoberts said the May enplanement numbers will be released at some point next week.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.