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N.D. Airport Undergoes Much-Needed Expansion

The fifth-fastest growing community in the country needs room to breathe.

Thu December 19, 2013 - Midwest Edition
Lori Lovely

The Minot, N.D., International Airport is undergoing a much-needed expansion, with construction of a $40 million terminal which was scheduled to begin this past October.

As the fourth-largest city in the state, Minot is experiencing a population growth and an upswing in its economy as a result of the oil boom in western North Dakota. That has led to increased air traffic, making Minot the state’s third-busiest city.

“Of cities under 50,000 people, Minot is the fifth-fastest growing community in the country,” Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., told the Minot Daily News. “The economy is growing. The population is growing. Airport boardings are growing dramatically and there’s more and more flights coming in here all the time.”

According to Gov. Jack Dalrymple, airports across the state have seen a significant increase in the number of travellers over the past several years as a result of the state’s rapidly growing economy, but the increase has been especially substantial in western North Dakota.

Estimates vary, with some claims of passenger boardings at the Minot Airport having increased more than three-fold over the last decade, from more than 70,000 in 2003 to more than 224,000 in 2012. Minot’s 2012 total of 224,421 boardings marked an increase over the previous year of 50 to 57 percent, depending on the source. Either way, it’s the largest increase among any of the eight major airports in North Dakota, with the number of airline travelers passing through the airport growing from 5,000 a month to as many as 20,000. Although the airport is only 20 years old, it has outgrown its design intended to serve 100,000 passengers.

The increased number of air passengers means that existing parking lots are no longer sufficient. This has put a strain on infrastructure as airport officials struggled with temporary long-term parking, additional hold-room areas and other measures to accommodate an unplanned-for number of travelers.

Funding an Idea

The combination of Minot International’s current numbers and the growth forecast over the next 20 years led to the decision to build a new terminal directly east of the existing one. In addition to the increased number of travelers and related parking issues, the possibility of new airlines and destinations make a new terminal at Minot International Airport a top priority.

“The idea was a result of capacity constraints in the existing terminal building and space requirements needed for growth,” Airport Director Andrew Solsvig confirms. “The existing building was extremely difficult to expand while in operation and it was determined through a terminal forecast update, financial plan and site selection that a new terminal building was the best option. Many stakeholders in the community were involved and the project was voted to move forward.”

There are other pieces of the project, said Solsvig: additional apron, parking lot, access road, a new taxiway and a new snow removal equipment building that will provide additional space for storing and maintaining the airport’s snow removal equipment. Dirt work on the taxiways has already begun.

Total investment is around $98 million. Out of that, the terminal project was bid at $40.35 million.

“The state of North Dakota, through an Energy Impact Grant and from the Land Trust Board, approved $60 million to support infrastructure projects for airports in western North Dakota,” Solsvig said. “Minot is currently approved for $21.8 million to support the terminal, apron and other associated projects. The Federal share will depend on discretionary funding and the local share will be supported by revenue-backed bonds.”

Some of the other capital improvement projects funded with Energy Impact Grants include: $1.65 million to construct a terminal access road, $805,000 to construct a new terminal apron used for parking aircraft and $100,000 to purchase furniture for the new terminal. Approximately $163,000 of the $326,000 for the new snow removal equipment building came from the Energy Impact Grant.

In addition to state funding, $13.7 million will come from local sources and $8.1 million will come from federal sources. According to the Minot Daily News, the Federal Aviation Administration awarded the airport an $8.7 million grant funded by Congress.

“The state has been working closely with federal and local officials to secure the funding for this project and has provided Minot with a large portion of the Energy Impact Grant funding that was allocated specifically for airport authorities in the state’s oil and gas producing counties,” Dalrymple said in a press release.

According to a news release issued by Hoeven, the airport is eligible for an estimated $47.5 million in additional FAA Airport Improvement Program grants. The city and state would provide matching funding.

Designing Work

Part of the $8.7 million dollar grant was used to fund a final terminal design, which was completed in May 2013 by architect Coover Clark & Associates.

The size of the existing terminal is slightly more than 30,000 sq. ft. (2,787 sq m). The new terminal is expected to exceed 115,000 sq. ft. (10,684 sq m) — more than three times the size of the existing terminal — and be built to accommodate future expansion. “We plan for 20 years out, not just five,” said Solsvig.

The new terminal design will include four to six gates, room for up to four car rental companies, additional restaurant space, ticket counters with self-check-in kiosks, additional check-in areas for future new airlines, a restaurant and gift shop and greatly expanded parking facilities for short-term, long-term and rental car parking.

Because the new terminal will be located east of the existing terminal, the building that currently houses the airport’s snow removal equipment has to be removed. The new snow removal equipment building will be built south of the Fire Department Training Center, which in turn will be located elsewhere to make room for additional airport parking.

The general contractor is Graham Construction Services Inc. KLJ is the airport engineer.

The schedule is unknown at this point, said Solsvig, although a completion date of fall 2015 is the goal, weather pending. “Challenges will certainly include weather [winter], with a late start in October. We are working as fast as able to get dirt work and foundations in place. Progress moving forward will depend on weather.”

Forecasts are calling for a colder than normal winter with below average precipitation and snowfall; a warm and dry spring; and an average summer, followed by a wet fall 2014.

“This new terminal and the other capital improvement projects planned for Minot International Airport are important and necessary enhancements that will help the community and region address rapid economic growth and historic increases in airline activity,” Dalrymple said.

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