As the year progresses, the late-November deadline for the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport’s upgrade to an international airport approaches, as work steadily continues.
According to airport Director Mike Hall, the project is currently entering the second phase of its development, which includes a bulk of the renovations that are included in the project. Currently, the canopy at the front of the airport is being replaced, with work nearing completion, and Hall jokes that the demolition is being done by a hungry Tyrannosaurus Rex that keeps gnawing at the canopy.
But in reality the most visible work is actually being done by an excavator. By the end of that process, the front of the airport will look vastly different, Hall said. The old canopy must first be removed before a new one can be installed properly.
In the coming months, work will begin on the new departure and arrival terminal. New footers will be put down for the new concourse as well as some alterations to the current layout of the airport. Hall described some of the new work that is going to be done to create a more traditional airport feel at Ithaca Tompkins Airport.
“If you stand right now at security, there’s a wall and there is a little bit of a ramp where you go out to the jet bridge,” Hall said. “That wall gets pushed out 135 feet and it becomes what you see when you stand at security and look straight ahead, which looks like a traditional airport concourse, and there will be four jet bridges attached to that. Those are the two most obvious things. In addition, we are going to be starting very shortly on renovating the bathrooms and completely renovate the plumbing. And then there’s all the stuff in the ceiling and behind the walls that support the new construction.”
Both phase two and phase three are supposed to be completed by late November or early December depending on how things go, according to Hall. The bid for phase three’s work has yet to be awarded, though that stage will primarily be the construction of the general aviation and customs facility as well as finishing up the interior decorating.
In terms of financing, the latest phase is contracted at just a little over $18.6 million, which, according to Hall, is about two-thirds of the total project. The entire renovation to the airport was proposed to cost around $24 million, although the whole project is set to cost around $27 million. One other element Hall is grateful for is that people have been working around the possible inconveniences that stem from the reconstruction. He knows that in about six months, this will all be in the rearview mirror, and for now, this project is working to ensure as little disruption to passenger service as possible.
“The entrance to the airport has been the same as the exit from the airport,” Hall said. “It used to be, before we started construction, that you came in on one end and you come out of the other end. Now you come in and out on the same end. There’s a temporary wall screening in front of the old ticket counter location while we redo all the ticket counters and other offices and what have you. It’s all being very carefully managed from the standpoint of safety but it’s something that you can live with during construction. People are getting out of here on time, the airplanes are full. We appreciate their cooperation.”
Hall addressed fears that have arisen in the community regarding the presence of a customs facility, which is included in the airport’s expansion. Comments have popped up at several recent Tompkins County Legislature meetings along with editorials in local publications, including this one, criticizing the potential presence of more immigration monitoring here. Hall, however, said that won’t be the case, and that the new facility is for a different reason altogether.
“The bottom line is, should we in Tompkins County feel the facility was being misused or abused in any way, we could simply terminate the lease and that would be it,” Hall said. “It’s not as if the federal government is building a building and they can do with it what they want. When you add all that up, I think we have a handle or a level of control on this.”