To help fund more than $5 million in improvement projects at the Rochester International Airport, the city council cleared the way for the airport to accept almost $2 million in state and federal grants.
Airport Executive Director John Reed explained the projects involving the sky bridges, taxiway upgrades, designing a new customs terminal and marketing will help improve service and promote the regional airport.
• Sky bridges revamp: Topping the list of work to be done is a $3.37 million project to refurbish the airport’s four sky bridges used by passengers entering and exiting airplanes in Rochester. This involves transporting the sky bridges to Indianapolis to be overhauled.
“Two are already done. They look very nice,” Reed said.
The Rochester City Council approved a plan during its Monday night meeting to accept about $1.6 million in funding from the state, which takes care of 48 percent of the project’s cost. The rest of the bill, $1.76 million, will be paid from Rochester’s local option sales tax.
In addition to upgrading the sky bridges, they also are having power and heating/cooling added. This means the bridges will be able to power airplane’s electronics, which are connected to the skybridge. Reed said that eliminates the need for the plane to run its engine while loading or unloading passengers.
“This is a cost savings to everyone,” he said.
Having a heated or cooled bridge also will make them more comfortable for passengers.
• Upgrades to equipment and terminal design: For the next round of funding, Reed explained the airport rolled three projects together for a total cost of $1.89 million.
The federal government already has committed about $1.47 million and the state is kicking in about $245,000. That leaves the city of Rochester paying $170,000.
The largest project is designing a new customs facility to be added to the airport’s main terminal. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security previously warned Rochester that the airport’s customs facilities do not meet Homeland Security’s requirements for safety, security and passenger processing time. The fear is if Rochester fails to comply with the federal requirements, the airport could lose its international designation.
Getting the design done is the very first step of the project. “My hope is that we would be able to begin by late fall or early winter of 2016,” he said.
That timeline depends on the funding for the future stages to go in on time.
In addition to the customs design, this round of funding is providing money for repairs of the airport’s taxiway areas and the purchase of more fire/emergency equipment.
• Marketing: The final matching grant approved by the city council is to fund the airport’s marketing campaign.
The state will provide approximately $48,000, if the city pays at least $70,000 for marketing. That gives the airport a combined pool of $118,000 for its upcoming marketing campaign.
Reed declined to say what the marketing campaign entail.