A Renewed Sense of Vitality

Québec City’s modernization — a new look in a historic setting


Founded in 1608 and nestled in the cliffs overlooking the St. Lawrence Seaway, Québec City is seen as a North American jewel and popular tourist destination. The provincial capital of Québec, it is the only ‘walled’ city north of Mexico and carries a distinct European flavor. Earlier this decade as officials began planning for the city’s 400th anniversary, a plan was put in place to finance a modernization of the Jean Lesage International Airport terminal by local, provincial, and federal governments. The target: Open the complex in time for the 400-year celebrations, and ensure the new facilities would allow for flexibility for future development and expansion.

Often referred to as the cradle of French civilization in North America, Québec City has been listed as a premier tourism destination by several travel publications, and has been recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage site. It has a population of some 632,000.

According to the city tourism board, some 4.3 million tourists visited Québec City in 2007, including more than 1.1 million from 75 countries other than Canada.

In developing the new airport facilities, says airport president and chief operating officer Pascal Bélanger, “It was important for us to give ourselves the capacity to grow; and it also gives the city, both residents and visitors alike, the infrastructure that is conducive to what you see today at airports.

“Ultimately what we were able to do was build a facility that gives us some latitude to grow over the next several years; but also to integrate more amenities and services for passengers.”

The modernization of Jean Lesage International was not only spurred by the need for additional capacity and an upgrade in technology, but also to help Québec City become recognized as a modern, vibrant, and welcoming city for investors and travelers. The completion of the large-scale terminal modernization project coincided with last year’s celebration of the city’s 400th anniversary.

Terminal Development
The previous terminal facility at Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport had a capacity for some 800,000 passengers annually. “We outgrew that very quickly,” relates Bélanger. “In the last couple years, we have experienced double-digit growth. Our traffic has been on the rise significantly; between ’06 and ’07 our numbers were up 12 percent, and up another 17 percent the year after,” he explains. “Currently the airport is trending at about the same numbers as last year; so we are still doing good, all things considered.”

The plans for modernization of the airport began back in 2002, and it took a couple years to get everybody behind it and the funding in place, says Bélanger. The go-ahead to build was given in 2006, and the modernization project is currently about 95 percent complete. The new air terminal was inaugurated in October of last year; the remaining five percent of the project consists of a 255-foot long extension attached to the end of the terminal building which will allow propped aircraft to be parked in a way that gives the airport the ability to minimize outdoor walking for passengers.

“This is a cold-weather airport, and in the winter we get between 12 and 16 feet of snow,” says Bélanger. “We had to have designs that cater to the harsh climate.” The terminal extension is planned for completion by the end of September 2009.

According to Bélanger, the new facilities had to be built within the same footprint the airport had before plans for modernization. Project engineers had to phase things in a particular way, and that’s why the modernization took a little longer than expected, he says. All things considered, the terminal project was still complete in two years time.

The new terminal features a state of the art baggage area, and a full common-use check-in facility. “We wanted to make sure we would give ourselves all the flexibility we could,” says Bélanger.

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