Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport officials are laying the groundwork for the biggest expansion of the passenger terminal in more than 25 years as Lovell Field posts higher traffic after a string of record years.
Officials on Monday approved work to design a $4.2 million hangar that will enable relocating older facilities near the terminal and open the way for the potential terminal expansion.
The move to take down the old hangars will create space for eventually enlarging the terminal to add gates to handle more airplanes and concourse space for passengers, officials said.
Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport is eyeing steps to handle passenger growth:
* April 1, 2019 - New 525-space parking lot to open
* 2019 - Work to start on parking garage and take about a year to complete
* 2020 - Design of possible expanded terminal may start
* 2021 - Construction on terminal expansion may begin
Source: Chattanooga Airport
The airport reported Monday that passenger boardings were up 3.28 percent last month over a year ago and were up 6.65 percent so far this year over the record high in 2018. Last year was the fifth consecutive record-breaking annual mark.
"It's encouraging to see another solid month of growth," said Dan Jacobson, chairman of the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority, at a meeting of the panel.
To handle more passengers in the short-term, a 525-space surface parking lot is expected to be finished around April 1 off Airport Road, said Terry Hart, the airport's president.
That lot is undergoing construction adjacent to an existing 265-space economy parking area at which passengers are shuttled to the terminal.
Later this year, Hart said work is expected to start on a multi-level parking garage near the terminal. Construction of the garage is expected to take a year, Hart said.
In 2020, work could begin to design the expanded terminal, which might add four or five more gates for aircraft, as well as boost concourse space for passenger restrooms, restaurants and another potential security checkpoint line, he said.
Construction of the terminal expansion could start in 2021, Hart said. The existing terminal opened in the spring of 1992.
Financing for such a project could come from several sources, including federal and state money along with airport funds, he said. Also, some bonds could be issued to help finance the project, Hart said.
First, however, the space housing the two old hangars on the side of the terminal near the rental car lot would need to be relocated at another site. Airport officials approved $255,000 for the firm Allen and Hoshall to design the new hangar.
John Naylor, the airport's vice president of planning and development, said a state grant will pay for 90 percent of the design cost with Lovell Field picking up the remainder.
"It will not increase hangar space, but replace the space," he said. "Instead of two hangars, it will be one."
Chattanooga Airport in 2018 set new records for passenger boardings and total traffic as it benefited from the city's growing economy and more flights, officials said.
Passenger boardings hit 504,298 last year, the first time ever over a half million, up 4.08 percent from 2017, figures show.
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