Business is booming.

Missoula airport set to open new south concourse; turns focus to next construction phase at east concourse

Powered escalators, a fully operational Geothermal system, and a final test of baggage screening with the Transportation Security Administration are all scheduled to take place in the coming weeks.

The first phase of the new passenger terminal at Missoula Montana Airport is scheduled to open in the coming months. Construction employees are hard at work putting the final touches on the $70 million structure.

If all goes according to plan, the terminal should be available to travelers when the spring travel season gets underway.

According to Tim Damrow, deputy airport director, “we’re finishing up the last connections for our ground-source geothermal system, and it should be powered up and ready to go in the next several weeks.” It will be the first time the heating and cooling systems will be turned on.

 

Having been planned for more than a decade and constructed over three years, the new terminal will open once traffic to and from Missoula returns to levels seen before the epidemic. Before 2020, the number of passengers passing through the airport has climbed year after year, reaching new records with each passing year.

Air service has also expanded, thanks to more airlines, bigger aircraft, and additional destinations. The previous terminal was ill-equipped to deal with the increased traffic, while the completion of Phase 1 should help mitigate the effects as the airport turns its focus to Phases 2 and 3, which comprise the east concourse and are now under construction.

“We’ve put our offer in for the east concourse,” says the team. “That box was delivered on January 20th,” Damrow said. The early findings of the bid results will be discussed at this meeting. “It will be an interesting moment to watch what the market will bear in terms of the cost of the next phase of that facility,” says the author.

Up to this point, the new south concourse has cost around $57 million, with approximately $13 million in construction yet to be completed before the spring opening. Financial support for the project has come from airport contingency and government grants and credit.

It is expected that completing Phases 2 and 3 will cost around $40 million, increasing the overall construction cost to approximately $110 million, according to the planned plan. When completed, the airport will include eight passenger gates and other passenger facilities.

The work is expected to meet the airport’s current needs, and this week, officials approved $1.1 million in funding to begin a new master plan to guide the airport through the next 20 years.

In a recent task order, airport officials said the facility continues to see record growth, which has required continuous change in current and future operational and planning needs. Passenger counts have also increased, and the airlines that serve Missoula have met the demand by adding destinations and increasing capacity with more flights and larger aircraft.

“The Missoula community is also growing at a rapid pace,” they wrote. “This is putting pressure on the airport to protect the airspace and surrounding property for our current and future growth needs.”

Among other things, the new master plan will examine that airspace and ensure it’s not infringed upon as Missoula grows. It will also include an aeronautical survey for incoming aircraft and an aviation forecast to predict service levels over the next few decades.

In recent years, Missoula has added American Airlines as a new carrier and opened new markets with nonstop flights, such as Dallas and several major cities along the California coast. Additional destinations could be on the horizon with the new terminal set to open.

“We’ll be looking at our south-side development, how we continue to protect the airspace with all the growth happening on the east side, and addressing noise is another piece that we’ll look a little closer at,” said Shawn Shay with Morrison-Mayerle. “It’s cleaning up a lot of things that have been out there in the past.”

The general aviation community has also grown with the airport, which will require more ramps, hangars, and taxi lanes down the road. As a result, the demand for developable land has increased, which will prompt the airport to explore its land holdings and options for development south of the runway in the new master plan.

The airport plans to work with city and county officials to ensure its growth plans and plans for growth in the greater Mullan area coordinate as much as possible.

“I’ve already talked to the city and county people, saying this was coming up, and we’d like their participation,” said Lynn Fagen, the airport’s administrative manager.