SJTA OKs $11M. project; Concrete apron would hold planes first, terminal later

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP - Atlantic City International Airport operators plan to spend almost $11.5 million on a project that will lead to the eventual expansion of the facility's terminal in Egg Harbor Township.

Commissioners with the South Jersey Transportation Authority, or SJTA, voted Tuesday to finance construction of what is essentially a 101/2-acre asphalt and concrete "apron" that will be used in part as an aircraft parking area.

But the apron also has another critical role: It will serve as the foundation on which the SJTA can expand the airport terminal and double the number of boarding and off-loading ramps. The terminal currently has seven of those ramps.

That expansion is crucial for the airport to handle more than the 1.1 million travelers who pass through it each year, and for it to become more than just a sort of overflow site for Philadelphia International Airport traffic, SJTA Chairman Kris Kolluri said. Airlines want to see those kinds of improvements before they commit to more air service, he said.

The SJTA on Tuesday approved contracts with A.E. Stone Inc. of Egg Harbor Township to build the apron, and with the Princeton firm of Michael Baker Jr. Inc., which will serve as the construction manager.

Kolluri said the work will be paid for with a $7 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration and a $2.1 million grant from the state Department of Transportation. The rest of the money is expected to come in the form of a loan from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, he said.

SJTA Chief Engineer Samuel L. Donelson said work on the apron could begin in about a month.

The SJTA is sinking millions of dollars into the airport in hopes of making it a player in more than just the regional air transportation market.

Work is continuing on a $24.6 million, 1,400-space parking garage across from the terminal. Donelson said the project is on schedule and should be complete by May.

A $7.2 million baggage-screening facility opened recently, providing a better place for security to inspect baggage and opening up more space in the terminal by removing the screening machinery from its concourse. The SJTA eventually will renovate the terminal lobby by installing new flooring, ceilings and lighting, increasing the number of check-in counters from 28 to 42, and using flat-screen televisions to allow travelers to track their flights and kiosks for check-in by customers traveling without baggage.

The SJTA also is seeking proposals for development of a sort of hotel-conference center to be built near the airport circle at Tilton and Delilah roads. The main airport access route links up with the circle.

To e-mail Thomas Barlas at The Press: