With passenger counts soaring and demand for flights expanding, the board that governs Richmond International Airport this week executed one of its largest capital improvement projects in nearly a decade.
The Capital Region Airport Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to award construction company W.M. Schlosser Co. a $28.5 million contract to expand Concourse A at RIC.
Plans call for the 60,000-square-foot addition to bring six new gates to the eight-gate concourse. There also will be room for additional retail, office space and restrooms in the newly expanded concourse as demand warrants.
The Maryland-based general contractor sent one of the two bids received for the project in July. W.M. Schlosser underbid Kenbridge Construction Co. of Kenbridge, Virginia, by about $3.1 million. No metro Richmond firms submitted bids.
While the initial award covers the costs of Concourse A’s construction, RIC President and CEO Jon Mathiasen said a second bid request will be issued during late spring 2019 for the construction of six jet bridges for each of the new gates in the concourse.
Mathiasen estimates the jet bridges – which are enclosed, movable connectors that extend from an airport terminal gate to an airplane’s door – to cost about $8 million total, bringing the total Concourse A project to nearly $37 million.
“It’s a true testament to the growth that’s occurring at this airport,” said Mathiasen, who’s retiring from his position in January 2019. “We are in talks with several carriers that are interested in coming to (RIC), and this expansion is going to aid in the airport bringing more carriers, more flights and more passenger traffic to our area.”
John Rutledge, director of planning and engineering at RIC, said construction on the concourse expansion is slated to begin in mid-November and take about 15 months to complete.
Commissioners are targeting a March 2020 completion for the entire project, Mathiasen said.
To fund the expansion costs, RIC spokesman Troy Bell said the commission has tucked away $13.2 million from the $4.50 passenger facility charge it collects from ticket sales.
No debt will be issued to fund the expansion, Mathiasen said, making it an all-cash deal for the airport.
To ensure the commission has enough cash on hand to fund the project, Mathiasen added the airport is delaying a few nonessential projects. For example, it would delay spending about $1 million for a new staging lot for Uber and Lyft drivers.
Concourse A’s expansion is consistent with the airport’s master plan, which the commission approved more than a decade ago as a blueprint for RIC’s growth through 2026, and how best to maximize space at the 3,000-acre facility in eastern Henrico County.
Concourse A is the smaller of the airport’s two concourses. With the expansion, it will mirror the 14-gate Concourse B.
American Airlines and JetBlue operate from Concourse A, Bell said, and will remain there following the expansion.
The project comes as passenger activity soars at the airport.
RIC reported an all-time monthly passenger traffic record of 383,272 travelers in August. It’s a 13.6 percent increase in total passenger traffic over the same time period last year, and the fourth time since October 2017 that the airport reported a monthly record.
And September could be on target to set year-over-year records if the recent NASCAR event is any indication.
Bell said RIC reported 50,000 departures during race week from Sept. 17-24, up about 32 percent from the nearly 38,000 during the NASCAR event from Sept. 4-11, 2017.