Pace Of Expansion Picks Up At Charlotte Douglas

Oct. 05--Some $400 million worth of construction is under contract at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, officials said Thursday, as crews work to build a new entrance road, expanded hourly parking deck, a rail yard and terminal expansions.

Aviation director Jerry Orr told the city's Airport Advisory Committee that the projects are employing more than 400 workers, not including support staff. The projects are part of the airport's expansion plan, which airport officials hope will eventually lead to a separate international concourse and a new control tower.

The airport, US Airways' busiest hub, has seen passenger growth in recent years. In August, Charlotte Douglas said passenger traffic was up 9.5 percent compared with the same month last year. Through August, 27.7 million passengers had used the airport, up 5 percent from last year.

Major projects being built include:

--A new airport entrance roadway. Work started in June on the $20 million road system, which will create direct, wider one-way traffic flows to the terminal from Wilkinson Boulevard and Little Rock Road. The new entrance roadway also involves building four new bridges to carry traffic and is slated for construction to be completed in December 2013.

--The $120 million new hourly parking deck. Sometime early next year, the remaining east and west hourly decks will be torn down so the second half of the 7,000-space deck can be built. Completion is scheduled for December 2014. The Queen Charlotte statue in front of the parking deck will be moved soon, to behind the control tower, before it eventually moves to a permanent home inside the expanded terminal building, Orr said.

--A $50 million automated baggage handling and screening system. Construction starts in November, and completion is scheduled for August 2015. As part of the project, for an additional $23 million, the airport's west terminal is being expanded.

--A $90 million intermodal rail yard to transfer freight between trains and trucks is being built by Norfolk Southern between two runways. The project, which involves moving more than a million cubic yards of dirt and grinding up granite on-site for the rail bed, is slated for completion in March 2014.

The next phase of projects will be to widen the roadway in front of the terminal by three lanes, to a total of eight, and expand the terminal's lobby, adding space for security, ticketing and baggage-claim areas. The project is estimated to cost about $245 million. On Thursday, the advisory committee recommended approving a $275,000 contract with architectural firm LS3P Associates to being designing the lobby expansion.

The projects are being funded through a mix of airport revenue bonds, facility charges, government grants and, in the case of the intermodal yard, private sources.

Portillo: 704-358-5041; Twitter: @ESPortillo

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