Nanaimo Airport Commission’s board of directors turned out for a ceremonial sod-turning to kick off construction of a $15-million project to expand the airport’s passenger terminal. Construction, which will increase the terminal size by 60 per cent, will complete in 2020. (CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo Airport terminal expansion breaks ground

Nanaimo Airport officially launches construction on $15-million terminal expansion project

Nanaimo Airport’s terminal expansion project got official clearance for takeoff on Tuesday.

Airport management, the Nanaimo Airport Commission board of directors, municipal representatives and construction contractors turned out to turn sod and launch construction of a $15-million project that will add 14,000 square feet to the airport’s passenger terminal, increasing terminal floor space by about 60 per cent.

When construction is complete in 2020, the extra space will accommodate about 320 passengers, more than doubling the current capacity of 140. There will be faster security screening and additional safety enhancements for passengers, pilots and air crews that include improvements already made to the runway, apron and lighting in anticipation of the terminal expansion.

The enlarged facility will allow the airport to meet anticipated traffic volumes as air carriers bring in larger Boeing 737 and Airbus A319 series aircraft serving direct flights to eastern Canada and beyond.

“As we go forward, we’re going to have a non-stop service from Nanaimo to Toronto starting on June 22 and that’s an A319. That’s a 136-seater,” said Mike Hooper, Nanaimo Airport president and CEO, during his address at the groundbreaking ceremony. “We need to do this work that we’re doing now in preparation for that, but also in preparation for the growth that we’re going to see in the coming years.”

In 2018 an estimated 400,000 passengers will pass through YCD. Traffic through the airport has increased for eight consecutive years and is 10 years ahead of traffic projections.

The last airport terminal expansion was completed in 2012, part of a six-year project that included extending the airport runway to accommodate Boeing 737-size aircraft.

“When we started talking about it in 2014 we didn’t need it, but that’s when you need to start planning,” said Lucie Gosselin, Nanaimo Airport board chairwoman. “It was a leap of faith and a fiscally responsible board and we weren’t going to charge into breaking ground before we really needed it.”

Gosselin said before the airport’s runway was extended in 2009, the airport was falling behind the needs of the region and is playing catch-up to meet service demands.

“We have the [population] base,” she said. “In fact, if you look at the market share, we should have about 500,000 passengers going through and this year we’re going to have 400,000, so we still have room to grow and it’s just a matter of making sure that those passengers are looked after when they get here, the airlines are providing the flights that they need, so it’s a whole bunch of moving parts that make that happen.”

Hooper said passengers won’t experience delays due to construction.

“The first thing we’re going to do is double the size of security lines, so we’re going to instantly increase the flow of folk going through from 100 people an hour to 200 people an hour, so there will be a smaller wait there,” Hooper said. “The next construction phase will include building a new boarding lounge to increase the capacity of passengers waiting board flights.”

The federal and provincial governments are each contributing $2.48 million for at total of $4.96 million toward the total construction cost, the B.C. Airport Assistance program is contributing $150,000, The balance of construction costs, $9.89, million will be paid for by the Nanaimo Airport Commission.

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