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Tri-State Airport Plans New $33 Million Structure

Kenova - HUNTINGTON Officials at Tri-State Airport are thinking big these days. An upswing in passenger traffic has left Tri-State critically short of parking. Accordingly, the airport began planning construction of a four-story parking garage on a portion of its surface parking lot. The estimated cost: $16.5 million.
But the ink wasn't dry on that plan before Tri-State junked it in favor of a far more ambitious undertaking: a $33.5 million Tri-State Intermodal Transportation and Business Center. The center would house not only parking but also some airport operations, as well as office spaces for the airport and other tenants.

Airport Director Jerry Brienza says Tri-State has applied for a $17.5 federal grant that, if approved, would cover slightly more than half of the center's cost. The grant is being sought, Brienza says, through the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER III) program. He says the intermodal nature of the new, larger project should improve its chances of winning approval of the grant.

If the federal grant is secured, Brienza says, the airport could raise the necessary additional funding through a mix of dedicated parking revenues, fees on passengers and car rental customers and rental income from leased spaces. He notes the airport also has the authority to sell bonds.

Driving the need for additional parking at Tri-State is a dramatic increase in passenger traffic over the past five years from 39,000 annual boardings in 2006 to 117,000 in 2010, the airport's highest annual figure in more than 30 years. Airport officials credit that increase to the arrival at Tri-State of discount carrier Allegiant Airlines. Allegiant began serving Orlando, Fla., from Tri-State in 2006 and since then has added three other destinations Fort Lauderdale and Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla., and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Brienza says he expects the airport will learn the fate of its grant application in the first quarter of 2012. If the grant is approved, he says, the airport will hire an architect and began the necessary detailed planning work on the project.

As envisioned, the new structure would house not only parking but also the airport's ticketing and baggage claim operations, which would be relocated from the current terminal building. The space those operations now occupy in the terminal would be used as a holding area for passengers waiting to board their flights. The present holding area would be demolished, providing more ramp space. An elevated covered walkway would link the new center to the current terminal.

The center also would house office space for the airport and others. Brienza identifies FedEx, the KYOVA Interstate Transportation Planning Commission and Mountwest Community and Technical College as potential tenants. The thought, Brienza says, is to have the center designed in such a fashion that it could later be expanded to include a conference center and even some hotel rooms.
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