Phase I of Airport Expansion Plans Moves Forward

Now that the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport's concept has been approved for expansion, the Metropolitan Airports Commission is moving forward on the environmental review process for the first two phases.

No airlines at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport have requested additional gates to accommodate increased traffic just yet, but the airport's $2 billion expansion plans are taking flight.

Jeff Hamiel, executive director of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), said he is confident that the airlines will need additional room to expand within the next five years, and MAC has begun preparing for that expansion.

Hamiel said that talks with the airlines and research conducted by the state economist and state demographer have demonstrated that airline demand for additional space isn't a question of “if”-it's a question of “when.”

However, the airport will not start construction on additional gates, which take 12 to 18 months to complete, until airlines have signed leases for them.

“We want to be cautious about the actual numbers here because we don't know what the demand is and we won't know other economic factors that might influence the need and the growth,” Hamiel told Twin Cities Business.

“There is no question that [the airlines] will grow, it's just a matter of when and how fast,” says Hamiel. “The plan that we are doing now is not a risky investment at all. We have to plan now for what we are going to need to do in the future to meet this growth demand.”

The airport currently serves about 33 million passengers per year, but that number is forecasted to reach 56 million by 2030, according to Hamiel.

Thus, MAC is currently working on the environmental review process for the first two phases of the expansion project-which began in 2010 and includes four phases over a 20-year period.

The expansion is still in the planning stages, and construction isn't expected to begin until the latter part of phase I. Phase I ends in 2015 and includes the expansion of the Humphrey Terminal-now called Terminal 2-with up to 17 new gates, along with new rental car and parking facilities. The phase also includes relocating some airlines that are currently at the Lindbergh Terminal-now called Terminal 1.

Before construction can begin on the new gates, MAC needs to complete the environmental review process, which will be done for the first two phases by mid-2012, and get commitments from the airlines to occupy the new gates.

The airlines relocating from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 as part of phase I include all of those not affiliated with Delta Airlines. Once the move happens, Terminal 1 will be renovated as part of phase II, which starts in 2015 and ends in 2020. Phase II also calls for a new U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility, 10 new gates on Concourse G at Terminal 1, and a new parking ramp at Terminal 2.

Phase III-which will take place from 2020-2025-calls for further expansion of Terminal 2 and additional parking. Plans for the final phase include developing a hotel and improving roadways at Terminal 1, further expansion of Concourse G at Terminal 2, construction of a crossover taxiway, extension of the underground tram, and a new parking ramp at Terminal 1.

The total cost of all phases of the expansion project is estimated to be between $2 billion and $2.4 billion.