Clearing a Path at T.F. Green

WARWICK - Work is set to begin on a major renovation of T.F. Green Airport, one that will completely reconfigure the main terminal to enlarge the security areas and relieve congestion in the clogged main concourse.

Construction crews will start the $83.5-million project in the next few weeks and are expected to finish by November 2007. The airport intends to move bulky baggage-screening equipment out of the main terminal, enlarge the main security checkpoint, expand the food court and the airport's administrative offices, and build a direct route from the arrival gates to the baggage-claim area.

"Our ability to grow jobs will depend on the airport's continued success," Governor Carcieri said yesterday at a news conference heralding construction. "By making the airport more customer-friendly, these improvements will encourage more people to fly to and from Warwick, while supporting our efforts to make T.F. Green more competitive."

In the interim, travelers flying out of Green will encounter drywall panels and construction equipment throughout the main concourse. But Mark Brewer, president and chief executive officer of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, said that while the construction will cause some inconvenience for travelers, the airport's main services will remain open.

"We expect our customers will have full access to all airline ticket counters and terminal services, including the bookstore and concession area and ATMs," Brewer said.

The project's goal, airport officials say, is to keep the main concourse as open and clear as possible, and to route travelers into specific areas -- separating arriving passengers, for instance, from departing fliers waiting to go through security.

In the long term, officials say, these changes will speed check-in, shorten lines and bring more order to the terminal -- correcting problems that Green has struggled with since the introduction of post-Sept. 11 security measures.

"We have enjoyed record use of this airport since the new terminal opened in 1996, and that increased use combined with enhanced security procedures put in place shortly after 9/11 has challenged our ability to service our customers, especially during peak travel time," said James Rosati, chairman of the Airport Corporation's board of directors.

After Sept. 11, large machines that "sniff" baggage for explosives were hastily placed in the main concourse because there was nowhere else to put them, officials said. But the equipment clogs the concourse and slows check-in.

The baggage-screening machines will be moved from the concourse to an enlarged inspection area in the bowels of the terminal, where bags will be examined out of sight of passengers.

Officials say one of Green's most difficult problems has been its crowded security-checkpoint area, which is in front of an escalator and stairwell. The setup forces security lines to snake around corners and further clog the terminal.

As part of this project, the main checkpoint will be enlarged by taking over portions of the current food-court area, which airport officials say will lead to quicker and more efficient security checks, and shorter lines.

The terminal's lower level, which currently houses primarily baggage claim and an information kiosk, will be rebuilt to feature restaurants and stores, along with other vendors displaced by the enlargement of the security checkpoint.

In addition, arriving passengers -- who now walk through the security checkpoint on their way to retrieve their luggage -- will move directly into the baggage-claim area via a new sloped walkway from the main gates.

Ticket-counter areas will also be expanded, officials say.

The project will be paid for by a combination of bonds issued through the state Economic Development Corporation and through fees levied on airport customers.

dbarbari@projo.com / (401) 277-8062



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