Peoria Airport Authority plans new terminal ; $57 million facility to open in 2010

The tiny black and white mosaic tiles that make up the mesmerizing floor patterns across the Greater Peoria Regional Airport will soon be a dizzying memory.

The airport authority plans to demolish the existing 1950s-era building and erect a new terminal, capable of housing more airlines and docking more commercial passenger airplanes, that will enhance security and expand space for vendors and other amenities as well as streamline operations at Peoria's larger airport.

Costs are pegged near $57 million, with construction expected to begin a year from now and a projected opening date in summer 2010.

"We're investing in the economic future of the Greater Peoria area," airports Director Ken Spirito said of the decision. "The expansion will allow us to create and develop more business opportunities and improve conditions for passengers."

The new building will be just west of the current terminal.

Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield completed a renovation of the main terminal in the past year, including new flooring, passenger and business-service areas, a gift shop and a new layout. Central Illinois Regional Airport at Bloomington opened a new terminal in 2001.

Inside, passenger services at the Peoria airport will be kept to the ground floor, unlike the existing terminal, which incorporates two floors. Check-in space will be increased, allowing for two more airlines, and security can stretch out operations making it possible for them to accept more passengers.

Outside, the number of planes able to park at the concourse will nearly double, from five to nine - not including other space that is available - making the airport more attractive to airlines.

All that will remain of the old building will be the six-story air traffic control tower, which airport officials said would cost an additional $15 million to move.

The airport plans to issue bonds and use federal grants to pay most of the cost.

Officials emphasized that construction will not raise taxes.

Legislation already has passed the Illinois Senate and is awaiting approval in the House to expand the airport's taxing district to encompass all of Peoria County. Airport officials say its passage will allow the authority to pay down the bonds in less time as well as allow for a drop in the tax rate.

Because construction will take place outside the existing terminal's footprint, passengers flying out of Peoria will notice almost no change to services.

"The current terminal, it's falling down around us," airport authority chairman Dean Heinzmann said. "There's mechanical areas where you walk through water, the concrete stairway leading to the front door is closed - it's served us well for decades, but we're at the point we need to make an investment."