Airport projects to proceed
Some $9.5 million in work remains on tap for next year; $5.2 million worth delayedNovember 23rd, 2001
Spokane International Airport will proceed with $9.5 million worth of capital improvement projects next year, despite having suffered revenue declines since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It has put a temporary hold, however, on another $5.2 million in projects.
Airport spokesman Todd Woodard says most of the still-scheduled projects are 90 percent funded by the Federal Aviation Administration and will proceed because the money for them is approved and available.
Those projects include the $3.5 million relocation of a taxiway, the $2.5 million construction of a five-acre, heavy-stress cargo handling apron, and the $2.5 million construction of a new access road, all on the eastern side of the airport, Woodard says. Other expenditures that wont be delayed include the relocation of a perimeter road around the northeast end of the main runway, budgeted at $500,000, and another $500,000 worth of smaller projects and purchases.
Projects the airport intends to put on hold include the $3.2 million construction of a 30,000-square-foot to 40,000-square-foot office-and-warehouse building at the Spokane International Airport Business Park, a $1 million renovation of the circular ramps that allows motorists to drive between the floors of the old airport parking garage, and a $1 million renovation of the ticket counter area in the main terminal building, Woodard says. The airport board will decide in mid-year whether to proceed with any or all of those projects, he says.
The financial impacts of reduced air traffic appear less pronounced here, relatively speaking, than at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where the Puget Sound Business Journal reports that officials have put about 50 development projects on hold this year to shave capital expenses by $6 million. Officials at Spokane International are only delaying about $5.2 million of 2002 projects for six months before deciding whether they should continue.
The Port of Seattle, which operates Sea-Tac, was caught Sept. 11 on the eve of a $617 million bond sale to fund major construction at Sea-Tac, so the timing of the terrorist attacks hardly could have been worse. For the airport here, which this week opened the final section of a new 1,100-stall airport parking garage and is unlikely to seek any additional bond financing for at least five years, the timing couldnt have been much better, Woodard says.
Another advantage for Spokane International is that the percentage declines in passenger air travel here since Sept. 11 have been less pronounced than at Sea-Tac and at many other airports across the country. Woodard says the number of passengers traveling to and from Spokane International in September declined only 27 percent from the previous year, which was about seven percentage points better than the national average. For October, the decline from the previous year was only 11 percent, he says.
Air passenger travel may have declined less here than at other airports because a relatively high number of flights to and from Spokane are regional, rather than cross-country, Woodard says.
About a third of all our air travel is to one city. Some 600,000 passengers a year fly between here and Seattle without any further destinations, he says.
Air passenger numbers are significant to Spokane International, because typically about half of the airports revenues are derived from airline ticket sales, parking fees, concession sales, and other sources of income related directly to passenger activity, he says. The rest comes from leasing space to the airlines and other businesses there.
Woodard says the declines in air passenger travel translated into a 15 percent drop in airport revenues in September and will probably amount to only about a 10 percent drop in October, compared with the same months last year.
Woodard says the Spokane airport board, which manages the airport, will determine whether to proceed with all or part of the $5.2 million in delayed capital expenditures once its members have a better idea of what to expect from air travel and airport revenues next year.
The holiday season is our peak travel season, Woodard says. The holidays, the month of January, and the period through the first quarter of next year, should be very telling.