By Sean Bassinger
Passengers waiting for flights at the Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco didn’t always get to enjoy a view.
That’s changed after the latest series of renovations, a nearly $42 million project more than two years in the making that’s finally ready for takeoff.
“Passengers will be able to see the airfield and watch the aircrafts come and go,” said Ron Foraker, director of the Tri-Cities Airport.
Being able to watch planes land and take off will add to the true airport experience once absent at the Pasco airport, Foraker said.
The addition of a plane viewing gallery in the terminal areas, several new concourses and extra Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, screening lanes are some of the new features of the Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco.
First opened 1926, the airport is the largest in southeast Washington.
Officials from the airport and Port of Pasco, which operates the airport, knew they needed to position the airport for the next two decades of growth.
A shortage of space was one of the airport’s greatest challenges through the years as more people began to use it, Foraker said.
The airport recorded 374,254 passengers 2016, an increase of 8 percent over the previous year.
The airport’s main terminal building has been about 60,000 square feet since 1986. With the expansion, it’s now 110,000 square feet, Foraker said.
The new TSA passenger screening gates opened Dec. 21. During construction, passengers had to exit the terminal through a series of outdoor tents.
The final stages of construction include completion of the plane viewing gallery, two gates in the main terminal. The project was listed as more than 90 percent complete at the end of the first week of January, according to the airport’s website.
Flights operated by Delta, Alaska/Horizon Air and United are among the airlines offering flights from Pasco to Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and other cities.
“The space we had for the public was just packed,” Foraker said.
The addition of more gates and the four lanes for TSA passenger screening should help with the continued increase of passengers at the airport, Foraker said.
TSA officials also will get their own offices for the first time.
“Now they truly have some nice space to kind of call home,” Foraker said.
Construction crews and designers didn’t skimp on aesthetics. Tiled floors near the new screening areas were curved to resemble the Yakima, Snake and Columbia rivers. Several new flat-panel monitors added for passengers who want to see an up-to-date geographical map of where their flights are.
In addition, a Visit Tri-Cities informational kiosk was installed just outside of the TSA passenger screening area near the baggage claim section in June.
Foraker said the construction project has been successful, with few challenges along the way. He commended each of the organizations and officials involved.
“It’s been a really wonderful work effort amongst all the parties,” he said. “For the most part, most of the workers were Tri-Citians.”
Work on the expansion began in 2014.
It has been a combined effort between airport officials, the Port of Pasco, Bouten Construction in Richland, Strategic Construction Management in Pasco and Wisconsin-based Mead & Hunt Inc.
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