REDMOND - To match the pace of population and economic growth in Central Oregon, Redmond Airport officials unveiled plans Wednesday to expand the terminal building to more than twice its current size.
The project, estimated to cost $30 million to $35 million, will increase the size of the Redmond terminal to about 136,000 square feet. It would take 18 months to complete from start to finish, said Airport Manager Carrie Novick.
The current terminal, about 23,000 square feet, was completed in 1993.
"The fact is, (Central Oregon) is a different community now compared to what it was back then," Novick said. "So it's more important to focus on the current needs of the community rather than the difference in size of the two buildings."
Novick added that she hopes to start construction by the first two months of 2007 and should be completed by 2008.
Passenger count at Redmond Airport has soared since the launch of Delta Connection's service to Salt Lake City in 2005. The airport recorded almost 190,000 passenger boardings in 2005, compared with 72,000 in 1993.
Traffic is likely to further increase this summer, when Horizon Air's daily services to Los Angeles and Eugene start in August. United Express is also scheduled to begin weekend flights to Denver in June.
The expanded terminal will have a number of features not found in the current building, including a flight arrival-and-departure information screen and an improved restaurant area.
The new terminal will also have a basement, to be used mainly by Transportation Security Administration officials, and a second-floor mezzanine consisting of additional seating for departing passengers.
"I think putting the TSA downstairs is going to be huge," Novick said. "They can continue to expand and not take up space (in the lobby area)."
Other new features include a second conveyor belt for arriving passengers' luggage and eight boarding gates attached to the terminal building.
"(The gates) are going to be part of the terminal building because a covered walkway here doesn't work," Novick said. "It would get snowy and icy."
One aspect, however, didn't make it into the current design for expansion: Jetways, or mobile walkways connecting the gates directly to the planes, are not currently planned.
"If airlines want them, they have to ask for them," Novick said, citing the jetways' cost of about $340,000 each. "It's just too expensive to just stick them in there."
Novick revealed the terminal expansion plans at the Redmond Airport Commission meeting Wednesday.
Redmond officials said they have been looking at expanding the airport since 2001, although the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks put the plans on the back burner.
"There's a real need for this (expansion), with the dramatic increase in passenger traffic here," said Michael Patterson, Redmond's city manager. "We're really excited about what this will mean for Central Oregon, for the region to get a terminal that can handle all the passenger traffic this area generates."
Former Redmond Mayor Jerry Thackery agreed.
"Right now, it's quite crowded in the lobby when a plane comes in," Thackery said. "There are wall-to-wall people. (And) this terminal is an essential asset to the Central Oregon economy."
More than 210,000 passengers are expected to board flights at Redmond Airport this year, Novick said.
Bend resident Denise Cater, who flies out of Redmond about four times a year, said a terminal expansion is definitely a positive step for the region's economy.
"I've never seen this place crowded, but it is getting more crowded than it was in the past," Cater, 50, said. "And with Bend not having a proper (commercial) airport, they're going to be doing more and more business here."
What's important, she added, is for airport management to help keep the flights out of Redmond relatively affordable.
"The only thing that kept me from flying out of Redmond is cost," Cater said. "I prefer flying out of here, but if the savings are $100 or more in Portland, I'll probably go there."
Novick said the new terminal design will incorporate energy-saving measures, like revolving doors and solar power panels, to keep maintenance costs low. That, in turn, would keep rents low for airlines serving the airport, and would help reduce the cost passed on to the passengers.
"It's a working building," Novick said. "Everything in the building has a purpose. The new terminal won't be loaded with fluff; it has to be clean and comfortable for our passengers. That is what's important."
The terminal expansion is the latest of many projects at the airport to meet growing demand. New parking at the airport is slated to be completed by Thanksgiving.