Courtesy: Detroit Free Press
Northwest resumes expansion at Metro
Detroit's reputation improves among fliers
April 6, 2004
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER
Now considered one of the nation's best airport operations, the McNamara Terminal at Detroit Metro is in the midst of a $175-million expansion expected to be complete in summer 2006.
Northwest Airlines Inc. said the expansion involves adding gates with larger boarding lounges for commuter planes, as well as additional gates for domestic flights. All told, the terminal will get 25 more gates, bringing the total to 122.
Construction work started in December. The project manager is Detroit-based Walbridge Aldinger Co., which also managed the construction of the airport's Westin Hotel. About 120 workers are working at the site.
"We are satisfied with the progress," Northwest spokeswoman Mary Stanik said. "Construction is being phased since it is an active terminal."
The expansion was originally planned to start after the McNamara terminal opened in February 2002 but was delayed by uncertainty caused by terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001, the spread of a pneumonia-like virus in Asia, and the war in Iraq, Stanik said. She said the Eagan, Minn.-based airline last fall decided to restart the project.
Metro Airport was one of the worst in the nation until the McNamara terminal opened. Now, the McNamara terminal and Northwest rank highly in consumer and industry studies.
Travelers last year ranked Metro No. 4 among 13 large U.S. airports and No. 6 globally in an annual consumer satisfaction survey by J.D. Power and Associates. Another industry efficiency report released Sunday said Northwest was the most-improved airline in the industry, moving from No. 9 to No. 6.
The expansion project involves demolishing the Concourse C walk-out corridor that feeds 19 commuter gates designed for short-haul turbo-prop aircraft.
Plans are to build a 41-gate, two-level concourse with separate gate-dedicated hold rooms that would resemble the A and B concourses. Northwest has been increasing its regional jet fleet and will require the 16 new gates to accommodate growth.
"When we began designing the Midfield project in 1996-1997, we were not certain about the number of regional jet gates we would need in the future," Stanik said. "At the time, our commuter fleet was composed entirely of Saab turboprops."
Work has also begun on adding nine gates at Concourse B, which has eight gates.
"The airport management is very pleased that our hub carrier, Northwest, shares our optimistic view of the potential for future growth," said Michael Conway, spokesman for Metro. "These additional gates would provide Northwest and its partners with much greater operational flexibility."
In early March the airport invited architectural and engineering firms to submit credentials to design the new North Terminal project. The deadline was March 30, and the airport received about 10 applications. Airport officials are expected to make a decision within a few months.
The new North Terminal will replace the old Davey Terminal, which was vacated by Northwest when it moved to McNamara. Once the old Davey Terminal is rebuilt, carriers such as Spirit Airlines and Southwest Airlines would move there.
The new 29-gate terminal is projected to cost $428 million. Airport officials want the design to minimize walking distances for passengers, include modern passenger conveyances, provide excellent retail and allow aircraft to move more efficiently between runways and gates.