Spokane Journal of Business

The Journal’s View: Ongoing, planned investment in airport should be lauded

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Recent construction projects and planned improvements we’ll be seeing this year and beyond at Spokane International Airport are a testament to the economic growth the Inland Northwest has been seeing, and continued investment in modernizing the airport should be supported and lauded.

Spokane International Airport Board has budgeted $44.2 million in capital improvements for the main airport this year--up from $29.7 million, in 2018.

Following major runway and taxiway improvements and construction of an already heavily used parking lot last year, projects we’ll likely see at the airport this year include further expanding the surface parking, upgrading the terminal-area access road, and improving car rental facilities.

Spokane International Airport CEO Larry Krauter says the airport also is in discussions with a developer and hopes to begin construction this year on a gas station and convenience store to be located between inbound and outbound Airport Drive northeast of the airport terminals.

Additionally, a $10 million Marriott SpringHill Suites hotel is going up near the terminals and parking garages, and that’s only one of three hotels planned or under construction in the airport vicinity, which together will add 281 hotel rooms to the Spokane market.

All of these projects are precursors to the planned $130 million Terminal Renovation and Expansion project, also known as TREX, which Krauter says will reach a point in the design phase this year that will enable the airport to finalize facility requirements with airlines and the Transportation Security Administration.

Looking beyond this year, Krauter says the TREX project planning continues on course at a steady pace. While the airport still has to complete the design, obtain environmental clearance, and approve funding mechanisms, the project could start in 2020 and take two or three years to complete.

Initial goals of the TREX project include expanding Terminal C to include an entrance hall, a two-tier gate, a new security checkpoint, and a unifying connection to terminals A and B. The project also will include a greeter hall with a new security checkpoint for terminals A and B, a central baggage claim hall, and a curbside canopy.

Meantime, Krauter says passenger growth is only accelerating the need for the TREX project. The airport had record passenger activity in 2018, with nearly 2 million passengers boarding planes last year, up just over 12 percent compared with the number of emplaned passengers the previous year. The airport also has been seeing a climbing trend in cargo tonnage shipped through the airport over the last decade.

Responding to demand, airlines have restored service that was withdrawn in the Great Recession, including links to Chicago, San Francisco, and Sacramento. Airlines also have added service to new markets, such as Dallas-Fort Worth, giving the airport more passenger capacity than ever before.

With such growth at the airport, reflecting nearly a decade of economic expansion throughout the Inland Northwest, it’s good to see investment in continued improvements this year and to see progress on a path forward to transform the airport into a more modern state-of-the-art facility.

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