Columbia Regional Airport will add new double-wide trailer for baggage claims

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 | 7:18 p.m. CDT; updated 8:01 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 29, 2012

COLUMBIA — City officials hope to build a new baggage claim area at Columbia Regional Airport and to modify the existing one to add a passenger waiting room by November.

The city would build a double-wide trailer to house the new baggage claim, Public Works Department spokesman Steven Sapp said. The two existing double-wides would be combined into one waiting area capable of seating 130 passengers.

The construction would be paid for with part of the $166,855 the Columbia City Council recently appropriated from money the Federal Emergency Management Agency gave the city as compensation for costs from the February 2011 snowstorm that dumped 18 inches of snow on the city.

The new double-wide trailer will cost $84,000 to purchase and set up, Sapp said.

The additions would help the airport accommodate the extra passengers it anticipates when twice-weekly flights between Columbia and Orlando International Airport begin Nov. 20, Mayor Bob McDavid said.

"We have a lot of work to do to accommodate the Airbuses," McDavid said, referring to the 138-seat Airbus 319 planes that Frontier Airlines will use for the flights.

City officials and business leaders hope to expand airport service further with a revenue guarantee that would minimize risks for airlines adding flights to Columbia.

McDavid emphasized that the trailers are only temporary solutions to the airport's lack of waiting space.

"We hate to use double-wides," McDavid said. "We need a long-term solution, which is going to be a new terminal."

The city is considering several options to pay for a new terminal, Sapp said. Those include issuing bonds or increasing the lodging tax. City officials also are working with state legislators to locate state and federal grant opportunities.

On Aug. 19, the City Council approved a resolution to appropriate $50,000 to begin design of a new terminal. City Manager Mike Matthes predicted a complete design could cost as much as $1.5 million. A conceptual drawing completed in January by architectural firm Reynolds, Smith & Hills estimated that a terminal renovation would cost $17.1 million.

City officials also hope to extend the airport's runway from 6,500 feet to 7,400 feet and to build a new crosswind runway. The city has applied for a Federal Aviation Administration grant for this fiscal year to fund the project, Sapp said.

The FAA would fund 90 percent of the runway extension, and the city would cover the rest, Sapp said.

"The City Council would have to locate the funds for that," Sapp said.

The airport's taxiway "A" is being demolished in what is the "first stage" of building a longer runway, Sapp said. Funds for the demolition came from an FAA grant awarded to the airport last year.

A longer runway would be slightly safer, McDavid said, although the existing runway is already a sufficient length for commercial jets.

"We've already accommodated Air Force One on two occasions," McDavid said.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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