Five-year plans for Tulsa Airport upgrades detailed

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Jan. 21--Capital improvement plans for Tulsa International Airport and Jones Riverside Airport for 2012-2016 were reviewed Thursday by the Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust, which was advised that federal budget cuts could affect some projects.

Trustees also approved an airline service incentive plan that awards cash to carriers that begin service in Tulsa.

The five-year, $158.7 million capital improvement plan for Tulsa International has 16 projects, including the $31 million rehabilitation of the east passenger concourse with electrical upgrades and a new fire suppression systems, lighting, passenger boarding bridges and furniture. Construction is expected to begin in 2012, airport officials said.

Also planned at Tulsa International are a $31.5 million expansion of the passenger terminal parking garage and upgrades to rental car facilities and the $22 million second phase of the six-year $70 million reconstruction of the 10,000-foot main north-south runway.

The initial phase of the runway project, which involves reconstruction of the south 1,200 feet, is to begin in February.

The Jones Riverside capital plan consists of 14 projects totaling $9.46 million. They include a $1.79 million upgrade of airfield guidance signs; a $827,000 widening to 60 feet from 50 feet of the 2,807-foot east-west crosswind runway; and a $907,000 rehabilitation of the crosswind runway pavement.

Most of the capital projects are 90 percent funded by Federal Aviation Administration grants, the future

of which is uncertain, Airports Director Jeff Mulder said.

"The biggest issue with the capital improvement plans this year is at the federal level...," Mulder said. "They're talking about making cuts, including the AIP (Airport Improvement Program), whose purpose is to fund airport infrastructure.

"So, we expect we will see less FAA grants. Some of these projects could back up or take longer to complete."

Mulder said the concourse projects -- including the $16.28 million renovation of the east passenger concourse that began last year -- would not be affected by congressional budget cutting.

Nearly all of the funding for those projects comes from revenue bonds and the $4.50-per-passenger Passenger Facility Charge, which generates about $4 million a year for Tulsa International projects, he said.

Trustees also approved a 2011 air service development incentive plan and took a proposed incentive program under advisement.

The incentive programs are designed to attract air service or expand air service to Tulsa International, which now is served by only four airlines: American, Southwest, Delta and United/Continental.

The incentives approved by the board include:

--$75,000 to the first airline that begins a nonstop route to an international gateway airport on either the East or West coast.

--$10,000 to the first airline that begins nonstop service to a market not yet served.

Trustees also reviewed and took under advisement new incentives proposed by Alexis Higgins, the deputy airports director of marketing.

The proposed incentives include discounts for new service. Among them:

--An airline that offers two new destinations with 22 departures a week would get free landing fees and a half-price discount for one year on terminal rental fees for ticket counters, offices, gate hold rooms and crew rooms.

--An airline that offers new service to a new destination with 11 departures a week would get 50 percent discounts on landing fees and 25 percent discounts on terminal rental fees for six months.

"The new carrier incentives I've proposed are designed to diversify the carrier base, increase competition and add seats to the market," Higgins said.

"This type of incentive is comparable to what other airports are doing. It's an extra item that helps an airline make a decision to enter the market.

"When you see where the industry is, that we are down to four carriers, it's in our best interest to be proactive, to do what we can to ensure the stability of our airport."

In the monthly review of airport activity, trustees learned that passenger traffic is recovering slowly from the recession and double-digit traffic decreases that were common in the past two years.

In December, airline traffic was 229,219 passengers, an increase of 1.26 percent from December 2009.

For 2010, traffic was 2.84 million, a decline of 1.46 percent from 2009.

Aircraft operations -- a landing or takeoff -- at Tulsa International totaled 9,508 in December, a 9.4 percent increase from a year earlier.

For all of 2010, Tulsa International recorded 111,466 aircraft operations, a drop of 4.4 percent from 2009.

D.R. Stewart 581-8451

don.stewart@tulsaworld.com

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