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Apr 12, 2012 11:35 AM by AP

Airport terminal plans in works, details unclear

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - Questions remain about what a new terminal at the Lafayette Regional Airport will look like, how it will be funded and when construction will begin.

The Advertiser reports the airport has an estimated budget of $30 million to $35 million for the project, but constructing a new terminal, as well as parking and amenities to go along with it, could be more than twice that amount.

Following a meeting with members of the Lafayette Airport Commission on Wednesday, consultants with URS Corp. will review the preliminary plans and determine if certain parts of the project can be done within the airport's budget.

If the commission decides that the new terminal would be too costly, the focus could shift to refurbishing the existing terminal rather than building a new one.

Jim Young, a senior project director with URS Corp., said the goals of a new terminal should be to improve the quality of service, meet all federal requirements, improve parking and passenger screening and provide better amenities for flyers.

The project should also be done with the idea that the Lafayette's airport passenger count will probably increase in the coming decades. Up to 400,000 people use the airport each year now. But commissioners said those goals should be prioritized, and singled out parking as one area where costs could be reduced.

Rather than building a parking garage or other structure, property changes could be made to provide better surface parking.

"At a midsize airport, parking is probably not the highest priority on people's lists, whereas something like accommodating more aircraft might be higher up on the list," Commissioner Matt Cruse said.

Commissioner Paul Segura agreed, saying it could give a bad impression if the airport built a parking structure that was largely empty for long stretches of time, and encouraged other commissioners to look at wants versus needs.

"It's about what do we need versus what we can afford," Segura said. "We need to look at what we need to accommodate in terms of passenger count. Whatever you build is going to be here for the next 40 or 50 years."

Besides existing funds, money for a new terminal could come from federal dollars, state coffers or grants. But airport officials do not know how much money could come from those sources, if they would be earmarked for certain parts of the projects and when they might have the dollars available.

"I think in planning a long-term capital improvement plan on this scale, you can only do it on what's known," Cruse said. "Otherwise you end up spinning your wheels like we've been doing for years now. We need to start making decisions."

All commissioners agreed that the focus going forward needs to be on the terminal itself, and URS Corp. will probably present some kind of updated plans and financial projections to airport officials within the next few months.

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