Courtesy of City of Austin
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport will soon undergo an expansion after Austin City Council approved the negotiation and execution of a design-build agreement with Hansel Phelps Construction Co. for up to $6.3 million for the preliminary design phase Oct. 18.
“[In] my regular job, I was an airline pilot for Delta Airlines for 31 years,” Mayor Lee Leffingwell said during a news conference Oct. 12. “So I've seen a lot of airports, and I know a lot about airports. Airline pilots know more about airports than anybody else in the world knows about airports. I can honestly say this is one of the best airports I have ever been in.”
Improvements through the east terminal expansion include enhanced ability to screen passengers for security, upgraded custom facilities for international flights the city is looking to receive and increased retial and concession opportunities. Officials hope to reduce waiting times by 70 percent with the expansion, which is expected to cost a total of about $50 million.
According to city officials, the airport opened in 1999 and has continually grown at a rate of 4 percent a year. 2010 and 2011 saw a 6 percent increase in the number of passengers. As of August, the airport had about 9.3 million passenger boardings this year.
Leffingwell said the airport expansion is necessary to accommodate the airport's growth and keep it performing at a high level.
“I just want to emphasize how important it is that we continue to keep this airport as one of the best in the entire country,” Leffingwell said.
Jamie Rhodes, CEO of the Austin-based startup National NanoMaterials said the airport is a critical piece to the Austin business community and its ability to efficiently conduct business.
“The first impression of Austin is our airport,” Rhodes said. “Our airport is beautiful, everyone enjoys it, but we do need to expand it to keep up with the traffic, or first impressions might change of Austin. If you keep the first impression great, once people get there, they fall in love with Austin.”
Council also approved construction of a new employee parking lot for the airport at the meeting. Council approved up to about $7.6 million for the project.
Councilman Chris Riley said after raising concerns at a previous meeting, he was satisfied with the project after speaking with staff and moved to approve the motion with the direction that the airport's master plan include the new parking lot.