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Lingle frees $36.9M for major terminal expansion


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POSTED: Thursday, December 03, 2009

The state is moving forward on its first major concourse expansion in 15 years as it seeks to bolster tourism and position Honolulu Airport as a world-class destination.

Gov. Linda Lingle released $36.9 million yesterday that will be used for site preparation work and other functions to expand the inter- island terminal with a new Mauka Concourse extension.

The project will result in the demolition of the commuter terminal and the relocation in the second quarter of 2010 of two regional carriers — go! Mokulele and Island Air — to the interisland terminal. Smaller carriers Mokulele Express and Pacific Wings will continue to operate out of the commuter terminal during the phased renovation. The expansion is part of a broader $2.3 billion, 12-year Airports Modernization Plan that was launched in March 2006.

“;This airport modernization was meant to position Hawaii as a first-class destination,”; said Brennon Morioka, director of the state Department of Transportation. “;When everyone is counting their pennies in terms of discretionary spending — for vacation and business travel — we want to make sure Hawaii is right up there with being a competitive destination and people viewing it as a worthwhile investment in their money. Our airports are the first and last memories of our visitors and we want to make sure the experience they have is one that encourages them to come back.”;

Construction of the Mauka Concourse, which will add extra gates to meet increased travel demand, is expected to begin in 2011 and to be completed in 2013.

The money for the project comes from the state's airport special fund, which only can be used for airport purposes, according to Morioka. Revenue in the fund is generated from such sources as landing fees; rental car, parking and food concessions; and commercial lease rentals in and around the airport.

Improvements in the concourse extension will include modifications to the existing aircraft aprons; new aprons to accommodate new aircraft parking; modifications to the existing hydrant fueling system; new passenger loading gates, passenger hold rooms and circulation areas; concessions; restrooms and information kiosks. The extension also will accommodate six wide-body or 12 narrow-body aircraft, or various combinations of each.

Morioka said future plans call for a new commuter terminal and parking area across from the interisland terminal apron and an Elliott Street project that includes a new maintenance facility and air cargo facility.

But go! Vice President Paul Skellon said he was unhappy about go! being displaced. He also described a new commuter terminal as being only in the talking stage and said the use of the funds benefited just one carrier, Hawaiian Airlines.

“;If state or federal funds are being used to fund the renovation projects, which is for the benefit essentially of one carrier, then I think in the current economic climate that money could be better used to prevent the furlough days which are affecting the education of Hawaii's children,”; Skellon said. “;We have no desire to move from where we are (at the commuter terminal). It's a very easy facility to transit and has very easy parking. Our first choice would be to remain exactly where we are.”;

State tourism liaison Marsha Wienert said airport funds only can be used for airport projects and can't be transferred to the general fund.

Hawaiian Airlines spokesman Keoni Wager said the state's airport infrastructure is in desperate need of renovation and improvement.

“;Making Honolulu International Airport a more efficient, user-friendly and attractive facility will pay dividends for Hawaii's most important economic activity — tourism,”; he said. “;Given that Hawaiian is the biggest contributor to Honolulu International's budget and that Hawaiian's current infrastructure at the airport is the least optimal, it makes sense that this most pressing need would be addressed in the first phase of the development.”;