Airport upgrade; Changes will protect against earthquakes, improve service

You survived the five-year remodel of Concourse C. So getting through what's expected to be a two-year-long remodel of Concourse B should be a breeze. The most recent phase of construction at the perpetually-under-construction Ted...


You survived the five-year remodel of Concourse C.

So getting through what's expected to be a two-year-long remodel of Concourse B should be a breeze.

The most recent phase of construction at the perpetually-under-construction Ted Stevens International Airport began Monday.

That's when shops and concessions on Concourse B -- home to eight jet gates, Burger King, the Cloud Hopper Bar and a grizzly-bear-under-glass -- closed for two years of renovations.

Alaska Airlines and Northwest Airlines gates will move to Concourse C by the end of today. Conoco/BP flights are expected to move to Concourse C today or Thursday.

Closing in mid-November will be the "old terminal" -- home to the Upper One lounge, Mooselaneous, the Food Court, Starbucks, a barbershop and a variety of other amenities.

Airport director Mort Plumb said some of those amenities, like Starbucks and the barbershop, will be temporarily relocated. Others, like the Upper One, will close and re-open in new locations after the remodel is complete.

For about six weeks -- including Thanksgiving and Christmas -- there won't be a cocktail bar on the pre-security side of things. The Upper One is scheduled to close in mid-November, and a new lounge is scheduled to open early in January.

WHAT IT COSTS, AND WHO'S PAYING

The remodel has a $207 million price tag (cheaper than Concourse C's $240 million makeover).

Plumb says about two-thirds of the cost will be covered by general airport revenue bonds. Paying for the rest: passenger facility fees, and rates and charges, which is the money collected from airlines and tenants, like restaurants and news stands.

The good news: "No state general funds are being used," Plumb said.

The bad news: "Technically, passengers pay for all of it," he said by buying tickets, paying user fees and purchasing concessions.

WHY BOTHER?

Safety, mostly.

"We're trying to correct seismic deficiencies, that's the primary thing," said Dave Eberle, director of airport construction. "It's in very tough shape."

Some equipment in the concourse is 40 years old, Eberle said.

The remodel will also upgrade the mechanical and electrical systems, bringing them up to code, while also providing a cosmetic facelift.

in the interim

A new gate, C-0, is accommodating Alaska Airlines ground-loaded flights that used to leave out of gates C-7, C-8 and C-9 -- flights most usually bound for other Alaska destinations. C-0 is located right across from Chili's Too Margarita Bar.

Passengers still have to walk on the tarmac to board these flights.

C-0 is temporary. It'll close when construction is complete.

BESIDES A MORE EARTHQUAKE-PROOF CONCOURSE, WE'LL GET ...

A new restaurant and Food Court Concourse B.

New luggage carousels in the Concourse B baggage-claim area.

A brighter, better-lit Concourse B ticket lobby.

AND BEST OF ALL ...

A new place to go through security.

When construction is complete, security screening for concourses B and C will move to the old terminal, in the hallway that once led to the old Cheers bar.

The current screening area can be a logjam: Departing passengers go through security in one direction, arriving passengers enter the terminal from the opposite direction, and people gathered to wave goodbye or say hello crowd in wherever they can between the escalators and the security lines. When the new concourse opens, security for departing passengers will shift 50 feet to the left. Arriving passengers will enter the terminal the same place they do now.

WILL THE CONSTRUCTION EVER REALLY END?

Yes, said Plumb, the airport director -- although he admits that between roads, runways and the terminal, there's almost always something being added, upgraded or fixed.

The Concourse B upgrade, like the Concourse C upgrade, is part of the "terminal redevelopment program" scheduled to be completed by 2011. Future projects will include a more modest renovation of Concourse A.

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