A jet plane may be the only escape from Central Ohio's orange barrels, but be prepared for a final send-off by construction at Port Columbus International Airport.
In the past 10 years, seven passenger records have been set; more than 6.5 million travelers passed through the airport in 1999, an increase of 1.9 percent from 1998 and 79 percent since 1990.
The airport's current terminal building, once it's expanded completely, will have the capacity to handle 10 million passengers annually. However, passenger forecasts for Port Columbus reflect a projection of 18 million passengers annually over the next 20 to 25 years.
To accommodate this growth, the airport has updated its master plan to ensure long-term viability, with $1.1 billion in facility and related improvements.
Here's the rundown of recent and upcoming changes:
- Federal funding has been secured for a new air traffic control tower at the intersection of Sawyer Road and International Gateway. Design is to be complete this year, with groundbreaking in the spring of 2001. The $18.7 million project will take three years to build and equip. Land is reserved for a third parallel runway, south of the existing south runway and identical in length -- 10,250 feet.
- The final, significant development of the terminal building, including a five-gate expansion of Concourse C, realignment of gates in Concourses A and B, an additional baggage claim device and expansion and renovation of the international gate and related facilities, will enable the airport to handle 10 million passengers a year.
A new terminal will be built west of the current one in phases as demand dictates, eventually giving the airport 65 gates and the capacity to serve more than 20 million passengers annually.
- A major roadway improvement in the planning phase would lead to the elimination of the traffic signal at Stelzer Road and International Gateway and creation of a grade-separated interchange, resulting in airport traffic exiting I-270/670 to pass under Stelzer Road.
- Virtually all shopping and dining venues in the terminal building are new or remodeled.
Nearly $25 million was spent on basic building improvements to facilitate the concession development, with an additional $10 million for individual tenant finish work.
Focus was placed on Columbus-based companies, with the concession program providing airport users a glimpse of the city's rich business base, including Wendy's, Bath & Body Works, Damon's, Charley's Steakery, Cup O' Joe and Max & Erma's.
- The new parking garage and terminal atrium was essentially completed this year.
The airport now offers 3,400 close-in parking spaces, more than twice as many as before. For the first time, long-term parking, in addition to short-term parking, is available immediately adjacent to the terminal building.
A special section of the garage is reserved for the Executive Parking Program for companies or individuals who wish to have a dedicated parking space just steps from the ticket counters and gates. The spaces cost $350 per month.
- Customers who rent cars can now pick up and return vehicles directly to the garage, eliminating the need for remote shuttle transportation. New rental car transaction counters and office space are located on the first level; rental car fleets for eight companies are housed on the first two levels.
Information courtesy of the Columbus Airport Authority