The signing of the massive infrastructure bill on Monday by President Joe Biden could help speed up expansion of the Redmond Airport terminal.
Plans to double the size of the terminal that were expected to take 10 to 15 years can now potentially be completed in half that time due to the availability of funds from Biden’s bill, said Zachary Bass, the airport’s director.
The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill includes billions of dollars to upgrade America’s transportation network, including roads, bridges and airports. Central Oregon, the state’s fastest-growing region in both population and the economy, is expected to receive millions of dollars to fund projects.
“The infrastructure bill is exciting. When it passed, it was a very positive thing for the airport,” said Bass, director of the Redmond airport since 2016.
The bill will provide $25 billion for airports, to be spent on airport infrastructure, airport terminal programs and Federal Aviation Administration facilities and services. Airports across the country are getting projects shovel-ready in order to be in line for funding, and Redmond is no exception.
“We are about two years into this process already, and it has been on our planning sheets for five to six years prior. So basically, what I am hoping from the infrastructure bill is that it will mostly go into that major terminal expansion,” said Bass.
Bass said construction on Redmond’s expansion could start as soon as 2023 with the project broken down into five phases. Redmond Airport, the 120th largest in the country, was prepared to start on phase one with its own financing, but the infrastructure bill allows it to start multiple phases at once.
“We can ramp up the number of phases that we can complete at once,” said Bass. “So it’s pretty exciting. We would rather take five years of construction instead of 15.”
Construction could cost $160 million to $200 million, said Bass.
The terminal expansion would include new departure gates on a second floor, reached via an escalator. A total of eight jet bridges would extend from the terminal to reach larger planes. Smaller planes would still be accessed from the tarmac as they are today.
Architectural renderings of the terminal expansion will be available for public viewing before the end of the year, said Bass.
The airport is also planning to extend its runways to accommodate heavier planes with enough fuel to reach further destinations, including Hawaii and the East Coast. The runway project is expected to commence only after the completion of the terminal expansion, said Bass.
“We have to have infrastructure to support those larger jets, and then the second phase is we need to expand the runway so those jets can go anywhere they need to go,” said Bass. “Between those two projects, we are going to be in a different class of airport.”
Redmond was recently upgraded to a “small hub” category, up from a “primary non-hub” category. Reaching the level of “medium hub” depends on passenger traffic, said Bass. Examples of medium hubs include Anchorage, Alaska, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Austin, Texas.
The category upgrade comes as passenger traffic rebounded this year following a dismal 2020 when passenger numbers plummeted due to the pandemic. The number of travelers using the airport has reached pre-pandemic levels, with around 2,400 to 3,000 incoming and outgoing passengers going through the terminal a day.
Redmond Mayor George Endicott said he is looking forward to the addition of the jetways to make the travel experience easier for passengers, as it will keep them out of the hot weather in summer and cold in winter.
“To me, that’s a big deal,” said Endicott.
A terminal expansion will also give the local economy a jolt, said Jon Stark, director of Redmond Economic Development Inc., evidenced by previous expansions that boosted tourism and business.
“When we have added capacity at the airport we have consistently filled it. You build it and they will come, so to speak,” said Stark. He highlighted the increasing number of flights that have been added in recent years, with recent destinations that include Reno, Nevada; Burbank, California; Las Vegas; and Phoenix.
“Additional flights allow our businesses to be more competitive, to access new markets and existing markets and allows from a tourism standpoint to expand visitor base,” said Stark. “The airport is a big catalyst to our economy here, so it’s a win-win.”
Bass said that while plans for expansion have been laid, work still needs to be done to access funding. Some projects will be competitive, and Redmond needs to put its best foot forward, said Bass.
“With the passing of (the infrastructure bill), it made us very excited that we could speed up construction,” said Bass. “We can do more phases, and offer our customers a better product, quicker.”