Lambert Airport Panel OKs $650M in Spending, Much of It Tied to New Terminal

June 7, 2024

Jun. 6—ST. LOUIS — The panel overseeing St. Louis Lambert International Airport has signed off on $650 million in new spending, most of it tied to Lambert's $2.8 billion plan to consolidate its two terminals into a single new passenger concourse.

"The bulk ... goes toward the new terminal and enabling projects needed to build the terminal," Airport Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge said Thursday. "It's huge."

The St. Louis Airport Commission on Wednesday OK'd the massive package, which now goes to City Hall for consideration by aldermen and the city's main fiscal body.

Among the biggest outlays, Hamm-Niebruegge said, is more than $100 million to design the new terminal, a new main garage, roadway improvements and other items.

The Federal Aviation Administration last year gave tentative approval to the terminal overhaul but a decision on the final go-ahead for construction from the feds and airlines serving Lambert isn't expected until June 2026.

However, Hamm-Niebruegge said, Lambert already has authority to spend money on design and related work.

Moreover, she said, the airlines, whose fees pay off the interest on bond issues funding the work, have agreed to the current $650 million package.

That follows their approval of $331 million in other projects last year, such as the razing of the long-vacant former Missouri Air National Guard complex in the footprint of the proposed consolidated terminal.

"This, in my opinion, is probably the most critical step," she said of the two expenditures together. By approving those amounts, she said, "the airlines have said to us they believe this project should move forward."

She said as design work progresses, "we want to make sure ... they have a comfort level" with the overall plan. In addition to bond issues and airline fees, she said, some work may be covered by federal grants.

She said some allocations in the pending package are for things needed even if the consolidated terminal isn't ultimately built.

"The garage has got to come down" and be replaced, she said, referring to the facility in front of Terminal 1. That will cost about $49 million.

There also is funding for ongoing renovation "to keep the existing facilities alive," she said. "We have infrastructure from the 1950s."

Approval soon of the $650 million package would allow Lambert to seek bids for some of the projects later this year and begin work next year, airport officials said. Hamm-Niebruegge said the work would be carried out over four to five years, with about $295 million spent by mid-2025.

She said two parts of the package, the demolition of the existing A and B concourses, will not be carried out unless Lambert gets final approval for construction.

Hamm-Niebruegge said plans call for construction of the overhauled terminal to begin at the end of 2026, with the new western portion to open in late 2028 and the new eastern portion in late 2031 or early 2032.

The terminal overhaul calls for turning the existing Terminal 1 into a new, larger concourse with 62 gates instead of the 54 scattered across Terminals 1 and 2.

The current Terminal 1 ticketing area, a hallmark since the facility opened in 1956, would be reconfigured and connect to the new concourse with one large security checkpoint replacing the current two. The four iconic domes atop the ticketing area would remain.

Terminal 2, which opened in 1998, would be repurposed for another use yet to be announced.

The overall $2.8 billion cost is to be paid by bond sales repaid by airline fees, increased revenue from additional parking, concession and retail sales, federal grants and existing passenger facility charges tacked on to airline tickets.


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