Alaska Journal of Commerce
Web posted Sunday, April 17, 2005
Fairbanks airport to grow
By Margaret Bauman
Alaska Journal of Commerce
Although the expansion and renovation of the Fairbanks International Airport is just in the initial design stages, Gov. Frank Murkowski has made it clear he wants no cost overruns in the $82 million project.
"No cost overruns," Murkowski repeated several times in a briefing session April 9 in Fairbanks with airport manager Jesse Vanderzanden.
The project is just at 10 percent design, but progressing, Vanderzanden said as he showed Murkowski design plans to date.
The governor, anticipating the impact of construction of a gas pipeline from the North Slope to the continental United States, also expressed concern for facilitating the movement of commuters in and out of the airport. "The impact of a pipeline is something you can't imagine," said Murkowski, who lived in Fairbanks during 1970s construction of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. "I've got an idea of the magnitude of this project.
"We want to have something that will last 30 to 40 years," he said. "You're going to get the traffic."
Also in the works are the relocation of the airport's existing cargo apron, a $21 million project slated to begin in 2006, and the reconstruction of the main runway, a $30 million project scheduled to start in 2008 or 2009, Vanderzanden said.
The planned replacement facilities will be more compact and easily expandable for long-term development, Vanderzanden said. The new facilities will also allow more room for commuter traffic and corporate jets, he said.
Architect C.B. Bettisworth is teamed with planners Landrum and Brown on the project, which includes $17 million in contingency funds, Vanderzanden said. "If everything goes silky smooth, we would be looking at site preparation in the summer of 2006, and completion in 2009," he said.
At the governor's request, meanwhile, legislators are considering a bond cap increase for Alaska International Airport System, said Kip Knudson, deputy commissioner for aviation.
Senate Bill 153 would raise the bonding capacity from $524.5 million to $812.5 million, Knudson said. If the bill is approved by legislators, the state bond committee would then be able to sell the new revenue bonds.
Knudson said he doesn't foresee any strong opposition to raising the bond cap. He acknowledged, however, recent discussion in the Senate Transportation Committee on the cost overrun for renovation and expansion of Anchorage International Airport.
The 1999 estimate on the Anchorage airport project was $230 million, but with cost overruns, the project will now cost $461 million, he said.
Plans for the Fairbanks airport include replacing portions of the terminal built before 1985, with the location of the old terminal eventually to become a commuter parking apron. "We are still looking at other options as well," Vanderzanden said. "We want to be able to accommodate not only jet traffic, but commuter traffic as well. We're essentially going from five gates to six gates. The bag claim area will be renovated and relocated, ticket counters will be renovated as well, and we will be updating for security," he said.
The governor and Vanderzanden also briefly discussed refurbishing the underground airport fueling system, which has not been used since 1986. The system was built after pipeline construction, when there was a lot of heavy traffic into the Fairbanks airport. But as the area's economy slowed, economics didn't warrant use of the underground fueling system.
Trucks carrying 10,000 gallons of fuel currently service the air carriers by pulling right up to the aircraft, Vanderzanden said. Studies will determine whether it is cost effective to revive the old system, he said.
Margaret Bauman can be reached at margie.bauman@alaska