Lafayette considers new terminal

LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Airport Commission is taking early steps to determine how to fund a new airport terminal and what the facility might look like.

The most critical factor is money, and the commission directed a consulting group this month to begin estimating costs for preliminary designs and research funding sources, said Lafayette Regional Airport Director of Aviation Greg Roberts.

An early estimate places the price tag at about $60 million, a bill, Roberts said, that could be paid by a combination of federal and state funds and bonds that the airport could repay with operating revenue.

The airport is supported in part by 1.71-mill property tax, but that money can be used only for operations and maintenance, not new facilities.

The airport commission already tagged about $700,000 a year in existing revenue for the terminal project — money used to repay a debt that has now been retired, Roberts said.

Commission Chairman Paul Guilbeau Sr. said he believes it could take more than five years to pull together money for the new terminal and related projects, such as improved parking and access roads.

The airport commission has also considered the possibility of renovating the existing terminal rather than pursuing a new one, but commissioners have said they felt that the savings of less than $10 million was not worth the advantages of new construction, Roberts said.

He said the needed renovations are so extensive that only about 15 percent of the existing terminal would remain untouched, and a renovated terminal would probably not meet growth demands beyond 2025.

Roberts said a new terminal “would take us to 2040 or beyond” and could be built to allow for future expansions.

“This is the beauty of doing a new terminal is that you can design it from the ground up for expansion,” Roberts said.

He said the original airport terminal was built in the 1950s and was expanded once in the 1970s and again in the 1980s.

Options for continued expansion are limited, he said.

“You can’t put more than 6 pounds in a 6-pound sack,” Roberts said.

Guilbeau said that beyond a rising number of passengers, one of the big demands on space in recent years has come from post-9/11 security upgrades, including federal Transportation Security Administration screening areas.

“Obviously, 9/11 impacted the terminal tremendously,” he said.

Airport consultants had been looking at the options of renovation or new construction for a year or so, but the commission made the decision this month to focus on starting from scratch.

“They got to a crossroad, and you have to go left or right: Do you build a new one, or renovate the old one?,” Roberts said.