COLUMBIA, Mo. - City staff announced Wednesday that it has identified another location for a new terminal at Columbia Regional Airport that would save months of planning time and about $8 million.
In 2016, consultants from engineering and design firm Parsons Brinckerhoff presented Columbia city council members with three proposed site locations for a new terminal.
City officials say the 50-year-old terminal has reached capacity, especially when United Airlines began offering additional flights to Denver and Chicago this past August. But the city began updating its terminal master and airport layout plans two years ago, when the number of passengers began to explode. At the time, American Airlines was the only carrier, offering flights to Chicago and Dallas.
City council settled on a site just off Route H and Airport Drive for the new terminal. Since then, city staff has been working off the idea that that area would be the new terminal site, but continued due diligence on other possibilities, according to the city's Economic Development director Stacey Button. In late summer, staff did identify this newest location as a possibility and had preliminary conversations with the Federal Aviation Administration about the option.
Last month, the FAA conditionally approved terminal master and airport layout plans. The plans submitted to the FAA included the Route H site as well as the new site adjacent to the existing terminal. City spokesman Steve Sapp said federal officials didn't approve a specific site.
The new site is immediately south of the existing terminal building. There are two buildings which will most likely be demolished and relocated, including hangar 350. The post office building is not included in the site plan. The consultants actually identified much of the same site back in 2016 (including the post office) but it didn't make the shortlist. ABC17 News has reached out to the consultants about why it was not originally identified.
Mayor Brian Treece said the new location could speed up the process of building the terminal by as many as 15 months. He said this was ideal because it utilized existing infrastructure and didn't require the existing terminal be demolished and halt flights.
The FAA has also identified the middle of the primary runway 2-20, located behind the terminal, as the most efficient use for the airport and this new site proposal is an ideal location to utilize that. The council's preferred site off Route H needs to be constructed entirely from scratch, with millions sunk into concrete costs and time spent on a lengthy environmental study which could take up to a year, said Treece.
Button said Wednesday's announcement doesn't mean this is an official decision. The City Council is set to consider a resolution of support of the new location at Monday's meeting. Button said staff will present the new location to the FAA as the preferred one if council members support it.
City Council members Betsy Peters and Karl Skala indicated they would support the new location because of the money it would save taxpayers.
Voters approved a one percent increase to the city's hotel tax last summer to pay for the airport terminal project. At the time, the terminal project was expected to cost just shy of $40 million.
Ground preparation could begin as soon as next spring and construction could start by the end of 2018.