(HELENA) Travelers going through Helena Regional Airport will notice some changes this week, as the airport moves into the second phase of its terminal expansion project.
Contractors recently completed the first of several new sections that are being added onto the terminal building. This is the first full week that passengers will wait for their flights in that newly built area.
Passengers on Delta Air Lines and United Airlines will board their flights from the second floor. Travelers on Alaska Airlines will stay in a temporary waiting area on the first floor. Temporary signage is being installed to direct people from the Transportation Security Administration’s screening area to the appropriate gates.
In Phase Two of the project, crews will demolish much of the previous waiting area, then remodel it into an expanded concourse and a new location for the TSA checkpoint. That work is expected to take about a year.
Airport director Jeff Wadekamper said there will be even more changes in the terminal as the project goes on. Over the coming weeks, crews will build temporary restrooms, move the snack bar behind the security line to the second floor and put additional finishing touches on the waiting areas.
“Things will evolve as we go through the project over the next year,” said Wadekamper. “Even the temporary spaces that we’re in will transition and evolve.”
The $12 million terminal project will add 20,000 square feet to the building. The expanded terminal will have enough seating space for up to 500 passengers at a time, and the airport will be able to handle up to six planes.
Wadekamper said the project is needed so the airport can keep up with the growth it has experienced in recent years. Leaders reported more than 233,000 passengers arrived in or departed from Helena in 2018 – a nearly 12 percent increase from the year before.
“We appreciate everybody’s patience as we go through this,” Wadekamper said. “This is a really important aspect of the Helena Airport’s operation, really will set us up good to handle the ongoing growth that we’re seeing, and setting us up for potential future opportunities as we continue to grow.”
The terminal expansion project is funded mostly through grants from the Federal Aviation Administration. The agency collects a 7.5 percent surcharge on plane tickets to pay for airport infrastructure improvements nationwide.