Tulsa Airport Terminal Upgrade OK'd

Tulsa Airports Improvement Trustees approved a five-year, $130.3 million capital improvement plan Thursday that includes a $40 million passenger terminal rehabilitation project that could get under way this year.

The board also awarded a $1.2 million aircraft noise mitigation contract, and it reviewed draft minimum standards for commercial operators at Tulsa International Airport and a draft security plan at Jones Riverside Airport.

Airports Director Jeff Mulder said the third, $40 million phase of the passenger terminal expansion and rehabilitation project could begin this year and be completed in about three years.

Mulder said the next series of terminal projects includes replacement of the inbound baggage conveyor system; raising the roof, installing skylights, new heating and air conditioning systems and new lighting on the east and west concourses; electrical upgrades; and installation of new sprinkler systems.

The new terminal projects follow $34 million in terminal construction over the past four years that centered around new passenger and baggage checkpoint security systems in the center terminal, and new restaurants and retail shops.

Mulder said the next phase of terminal rehabilitation would be accomplished by leveraging the $4.5 million a year in revenue that TAIT receives from the $3-per-ticket Passenger Facility Charge to sell revenue bonds.

"We plan to issue bonds to get all the money at once instead of as a pay-as-you-go project," Mulder said. "Going out and getting revenue bonds allows us to get the work done in a shorter time frame. We really could tie up the concourses for years doing this work piecemeal."

Mulder said airport staff will be meeting March 6 with representatives of the eight airlines that serve Tulsa International to discuss the terminal rehabilitation plans and receive comments on them. The airlines underwrite much of the costs of operations at Tulsa International.

Other 2008 capital projects include $7.7 million in noise mitigation construction; $1.5 million in design work on a 750-space expansion of the terminal building parking garage; and $2.25 million in terminal roadway and signage improvements.

The board awarded 2008's first noise mitigation contract to S&L Specialty Contracting Inc. of Syracuse, N.Y. S&L's bid for 38 homes was the lowest of the three submitted, and it was above the engineer's estimate of $1.13 million.

Mulder said he met individually with airport tenants to review the draft Minimum Standards for Commercial Operators at Tulsa International. He also sent a copy for review by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Trustee Charles Sublett, who spearheaded TAIT's efforts to adopt minimum standards for commercial operators at both Tulsa International and Jones Riverside Airport, said the board may be able to approve the minimum standards in March.

Trustees also reviewed the draft Airport Security Plan at Jones Riverside. The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission is urging airports to adopt airport security plans as a proactive step to improve security at general aviation airports, Mulder said.

Alexis Higgins, Tulsa International's marketing director, said Continental Airlines has agreed to alter its flight schedule between Tulsa and Newark, N.J., to permit business fliers to plan one-day trips to New York City.

As of Saturday, Higgins said, Continental will change its departure time for the Newark-to-Tulsa flight from 3:15 p.m. to 6:10 p.m. By summer, the Newark-to-Tulsa flight will depart at 7 p.m., she said.

The outbound flight leaves Tulsa at 7 a.m. and arrives in Newark at 11 a.m.

"It's a time and money issue," Higgins said. "A New York City hotel could be $200 a night."

Last month's three-day ice storm cut deeply into airport revenue and escalated operating costs, Mulder said. The storm caused all airlines to halt or curtail operations for parts of all three days.

In January, airline passenger traffic at Tulsa International was 206,786 travelers, a 6.3 percent decline from January 2006. Parking revenue totaled $503,047, a 2.9 percent drop, and parking activity totaled 54,390 vehicles, a 2.8 percent decline.

"We had a Friday afternoon without any flights," Mulder said. "Normally, we have 3,000 to 5,000 passengers a day, so you can see how bad weather affects that."

In a budget summary report, airport staff said the Tulsa Airport Authority's materials costs for the first seven months of the 2007 fiscal year, which began July 1, were $532,321, up 25.9 percent from the same period a year earlier.

The report also revealed that capital outlays were up 101.3 percent, services and charges up 9.9 percent and personnel services costs up 3.9 percent.

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