Flying in and out of the Tri-Cities Airport is a bit more complicated than it was two years ago, but already passengers can see and experience the upgrades.
[blockquote quote="The remodeling is on schedule, on budget and moving along very well." source="David Robison, Strategic Construction Management" align="right" max_width="300px"]
There’s a bright, new concourse where travelers wait for flights, restrooms are spacious and plentiful, and the baggage claim and car rental companies are together in one room.
The ticketing area is still cramped, but that should improve this summer. And while it’s a bit of an adventure going through the plastic-lined tunnels leading to baggage claim, the paths are well marked and the signs and arrows are easy to follow.
“The remodeling is on schedule, on budget and moving along very well,” David Robison of Strategic Construction Management told Port of Pasco commissioners and staff in early March.
It’s his responsibility to keep an eye on the money, the scheduling and to make sure materials are where they need to be and when they’re needed.
It’s easy to keep track of construction progress, check on flights and more on the airport’s new website, www.flytricities.com. For construction updates click on the Grow With Us icon.
Robison said the third and final phase of the project, which includes enlarging the ticketing area, remodeling the outbound baggage handling area and adding a new restaurant, will begin this summer and should be complete by next spring.
The airport remodeling project, at $41.9 million, is the largest ever undertaken by the Port of Pasco.
Not all the changes are happening in the building and on the runways. The landscaping will also get an upgrade, said Ron Foraker, Port of Pasco’s director of airports.
“The landscaping around the loop road from the entrance to the terminal is all overgrown, both the trees and the evergreen bushes. Some of the irrigation lines are broken and can’t be repaired because you can’t physically get into them without taking a backhoe to dig into the bushes,” Foraker said.
The estimate for removing the existing landscaping and redoing it is about $40,000, which includes the construction and planting.
Foraker said the expansion and upgrades are needed because of the increase in traffic at the airport.
In 2014, the airport had 330,763 passengers take off or land at the facility. In 2015, that number had increased by 6 percent to 349,250 passengers.
“Overall, the airlines are up 11 percent year-to-date, or a 5,452 passenger increase over last year for January/February,” Foraker said.
And that number is expected to grow. Foraker, Carl Adrian of TRIDEC and Jack Penning of Sixel Consultants are meeting with four airlines — possibly a fifth — to discuss adding direct flights from Pasco to Los Angeles. They’ve already met with Alaska Airlines, SkyWest Airlines and United Airlines and are setting meetings with Delta Airlines and American Airlines.
“We expect that route to be picked up by one of them sometime in the first quarter of 2017,” Foraker said.
Some passengers will be disappointed to find that the Transportation Security Administration is discontinuing the special expedited screening lane at the Tri-Cities Airport for passengers who were enrolled in the TSA PreCheck program.
This lane was for passengers who passed a TSA background check. They are pre-approved to keep shoes and jackets on and didn’t have to pull out liquids or laptops from carry-on luggage.
“Many airports have a designated line just for TSA PreCheck passengers, which makes passing through security faster and more convenient,” Foraker said.
Obtaining the TSA PreCheck designation was once free, but now it costs $85 and even though it’s good for five years, fewer and fewer people do it, he added.
Last summer, to draw attention to the program, TSA randomly selected qualified passengers and applied the TSA PreCheck to their boarding pass. The same program supported a designated screening line at Tri-Cities Airport. However, the TSA is ending the program of selecting passengers at random.
To have a line dedicated to those who’ve passed the TSA PreCheck screening, at least 40 percent of those flying out of an airport need to be enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security Trusted Traveler program. Enrollment entitles fliers to receive the TSA PreCheck designation.
“While many Tri-Cities Airport passengers have signed up for the TSA PreCheck designation, there is not enough to keep a dedicated screening line,” said Foraker.
TSA PreCheck passengers will still get expedited screening, but will have to wait in the same line as everyone else.
“However, if enough people sign up for the TSA PreCheck program, we may see the designated lane return after the airport expansion is completed,” Foraker said.
Applying is easy, simply go to universalenroll.dhs.gov and click on TSA PreCheck. You’ll still need to make an appointment and go to the enrollment center in person. In the Tri-Cities it’s at the Lourdes Occupational Health Facility, 9915 Sandifur Parkway, Pasco.
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