Joel Aschbrenner, email@example.com
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Des Moines airport officials are leaning toward building a proposed $500 million terminal on the east side of the airport, which consultants now say would be significantly cheaper than the original plan to build it south of the runways.
The east-side location near the existing terminal would be about $140 million cheaper, according to a report the consulting firm HNTB presented to the Des Moines airport board Tuesday.
Board chairman Ed Hansel, a local attorney, said he “definitely” prefers the east-side option because it would be cheaper and allow the airport to continue to use facilities like existing parking garages.
“If I had to make my priority list, it always starts with cost,” he said.
The airport board is expected to vote in October on which location to pursue for the new terminal site.
According to HNTB, it would cost an estimated $504 million to build a 14-gate terminal on the east side of the airport. HNTB’s report shows the new terminal as a curved building sitting directly northeast of the existing terminal close to Fleur Drive.
The alternative would be to build a similar 14-gate terminal on the south side of the airport near Army Post Road. HNTB said that would cost an estimated $641 million. The south-side location would require the construction of a new aircraft taxiway and new parking garages, which would increase the cost.
Clint Lasser, a project manager with HNTB, said dollar figures are only rough estimates. Architectural and engineering plans for the facility, which will provide a more accurate cost estimate, will be produced after a site is selected.
Officials at the Des Moines International Airport have been working on plans for a new terminal for several years. They say the existing terminal, which was built in 1948, is too small, has become costly to maintain due to its age and was not designed to efficiently handle the flow of passengers through modern security screening.
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Under the current plans, construction of the new terminal would begin in 2022.
But before they can break ground, airport officials have to figure out how to pay for the facility. Federal funds and airline fees will cover much of the cost, but the airport still needs to secure more than $200 million from state and local sources.
Picking the east side of the airport for a new terminal site would mark a significant shift. A previous report from LeighFisher, another consulting firm, said the terminal would be best suited for the south side of the airport.
But according to HNTB, several factors make the east-side location cheaper and more functional:
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- The airport would not have to build a new taxiway for jets.
- The south-side location would require the construction of more new parking garages.
- FedEx, UPS and other cargo companies could remain in place on the south side of the airport.
- The terminal would have a more visible and prominent location along Fleur Drive. It would be closer to downtown and officials said it would feel connected to the city.
David Fisher, a fundraising consultant for the airport, said a new terminal would be a “crown jewel of Fleur Drive.”
One advantage of the south-side location is that it could cause less traffic congestion, airport officials said.
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City traffic engineer Jennifer McCoy said Fleur Drive would probably have to be widened if a new terminal was built on the east side.
The airport board plans to hold a meeting in sometime in September to hear comments from the public about the two terminal site options.
Board member Mark Feldmann said he is confident the public will see the benefit of building the terminal on the east side and reusing existing facilities like the parking garage.
“We’re talking about tax dollars, the public’s money,” he said. “I think they will be respectful that we are talking about using existing facilities and spending less taxpayer money.”