Airport seeks $3 million grant for its new terminal

A key step to make a new airport terminal building a reality at the Williamsport Regional Airport was taken by the Williamsport Municipal Airport Authority.

The authority unanimously adopted a resolution that, if approved by the Lycoming County commissioners, will allow the county to apply for $3 million in state grant money for the terminal’s construction costs.

The county should know within six months if the grant is approved.

Authority Chairman Mark Murawski said he expects it to be approved, as the project already would have been screened out by this point.

The grant represents about 25 percent of the total cost of $13.6 million, he said.

One component of construction is slated to begin in 2014: the entrance road lighting system, complete with new street lighting to improve the entranceway for motorized vehicles and pedestrians, Murawski said. The new terminal building should be open for business in the fall of 2016.

The authority has secured other funding for the project:

$1 million in Lycoming County Act 13 funds;

$1.4 million in Federal Aviation Administration funds; and

$1.2 million in Federal Highway Administration earmarked funds.

If needed, the authority has access to a Pennsylvania infrastructure bank loan through the state Department of Transportation. The county hired Delta Development Group to explore other funding sources so the loan can be minimized.

“We want to maximize grants and minimize loans,” Murawski said.

Once the terminal is built, the existing one will be torn down, providing more parking space.

The new terminal, which will be built just east of the current one, is needed due to the current terminal’s structural and space needs. Over the past five years, the authority has spent about $100,000 in repairs for the terminal.

Plus, there’s no room to grow in the building’s 27,000 square feet, Murawski said. The new building’s efficient layout at 35,000 square feet should accommodate triple the amount of passengers than now, he said.

It also will enable housing for three airlines, instead of the current single one.

An important feature of the new building will be an automatic baggage carousel where passengers can pick up their bags in the terminal. Right now, passengers have to walk to an external garage-type area. And, baggage now is shuttled outside of the secure, fenced-in area, which is not proper airport protocol, Murawski said. That will change with the baggage carousel.

“It will be a full-service terminal,” Murawski said.

A larger security area and holding room are part of the plans, with bathroom included. Currently, if passengers need to use the bathroom, they have to leave the security area, and go back through it.

The new terminal also will be more aesthetically pleasing with timber and glass construction, providing better views. It will feature certain aspects that make Williamsport unique: Little League Baseball, historical lumbering and public art.

The authority is considering a jetway – an exclusive hallway between the airplane and building – but will need to examine the cost benefit at the design phase. Currently, passengers have to walk on the tarmac in the elements to get to the terminal.

The airport supports about $65 million in economic activity and 700 jobs per year and serves a 12-county area, Murawski said, citing a PennDOT Bureau of Aviation study. Plus, the airport is in the heart of the Marcellus Shale natural gas play, he said.

Murawski noted sequestration didn’t affect the terminal project, only the air traffic control tower. Congress is leaning toward not cutting the funding for such towers, but it will be decided with the new federal budget.