Airport to solicit bids to renovate; First phase of terminal project will include replacing roof, systems.

Lehigh Valley International Airport will begin soliciting bids next month for a long-planned renovation of its main terminal, where passengers check in for flights.

At a committee meeting Thursday morning, airport staff laid out a schedule for soliciting and reviewing the bids for the project. The airport's plans include replacement of the terminal's floor tiles, roof and ceiling. In addition, the airport will add more ticket counters and relocate an escalator that links the ticketing area with the security checkpoint.

The project will provide an interior refurbishment that will make LVIA competitive with other airports, officials said. The cost of the project, an estimated $10 million to $12 million, will be covered in part by passenger facility charges that are added to fares.

If the bids are in line with estimates, the board will probably review them in the fall. The project is expected to take about two years.

In October 2004, airport officials announced plans for a two-phase renovation. The airport put the plans on hold while it modified the original design so that the first phase could proceed independently from the second.

The second, more ambitious phase includes creating a separate security screening corridor for outgoing passengers. Construction of the security check above-ground walkway, which was slated to begin in January 2005, will cost more, and the airport will only proceed when passenger volume shows a sustained improvement, George Doughty, the airport's top official, said Thursday.

Passenger traffic at Lehigh Valley International Airport in 2006 hit its lowest level in more than 10 years, falling 5 percent to 788,511 passengers. Traffic has been rebounding, rising in May for the eighth consecutive month. So far this year, traffic volume at LVIA is up 10 percent, to 338,168 passengers, compared with last year. Doughty said the airport might proceed with phase two in a year or so if the airport continues to rebuild its traffic.

Airport officials have been mulling improvements to the terminal for several years. They created preliminary drawings in 2001. Then the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred, and changed the way airports screened passengers. So LVIA decided to hold off on renovations until it could incorporate a security aspect.

Some of the systems that will be replaced in phase one, including heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, are 30 years old or more, Doughty said, and they are beginning to break down. This month, a fan in the air conditioning system broke.

"When things get that old, you need to replace them," Doughty said. "It's almost like you don't have a choice."

The airport's last major construction project was the $15 million expansion in 1997 of the Wiley Post Concourse that houses the gates where passengers board flights. The 60,000 square-foot terminal addition allowed the airport to increase the number of airplanes it could accommodate.

In October, the board awarded a $817,000 contract to Breslin Ridyard Fadero Architects of Allentown for survey work and construction drawings for the renovation of the ticketing area. On Thursday, the airport said the plans won't be available until next month.

jeanne.bonner@mcall.com

610-820-6539



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