Sunday, August 9, 2009

Nashville airport upgrades move out into the open

By Christina E. Sanchez • THE TENNESSEAN • August 9, 2009 Temporary walls hid much of the renovations at Nashville International Airport over the past two years as crews built new stores and local restaurant outposts, including Noshville and Swett’s. But as the airport enters the next phase of renovations to add restrooms, replace carpets and update the terminal’s appearance, the work will be visible and sometimes inconvenient to airport patrons. Work is expected to begin Aug. 17, starting in the A-B concourse to add a new restroom area. “The first phase was our most expensive, but this phase will be our most visible to passengers,” said Christine Vitt, director of construction for the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority. “We have four phases planned, and it’s about two years per phase.” The multi-phase and multimillion-dollar project is designed to refurbish the airport terminals and concourses that were last renovated 22 years ago. The first phase, at $35 million, included adding 30 new food and retail vendors, a new security checkpoint, concourse skylights and flight information displays. During Phase II, new carpeting will be added throughout the 9,000-square-foot airport terminal. Seating areas at the gates will get new chairs and a fresh look. The baggage claim area will be updated as well. In addition, the airport’s eight restroom areas will be renovated with environmentally friendly amenities. Some restrooms will be closed while they receive a face lift. “There may be some inconveniences with this phase,” said Emily Richard, airport spokeswoman. Airport patrons such as Dan Vogler, of Kansas City, welcome the changes and look forward to other additions. Vogler and his family appreciated the new amenities during his two-hour layover in Nashville on Friday. He watched his 2-year-old granddaughter, Ella, run around in the airport’s new children’s play area, hoping she burned some energy before they boarded the plane. He flies through Nashville at least twice a year on business trips. “As many things as have been lost in-flight, you gain in the terminal,” Vogler said. “The investment in the upgrades is obvious, and it is welcomed.” Updates are posted Phase II will cost $18 million and will be completed in the late summer of 2010. About 95 percent of the funding comes from passenger facilities charges, which are added to the purchase price of airline tickets. The remaining 5 percent will be paid for with airport revenues. Updates about construction will be available online at the airport’s Web site, and people can sign up to receive e-mail updates from the airport. Richard said work is almost finished on the $15 million road project around the airport terminal. The new roads and bridge will be open to the public at the end of August, and construction will begin on the final phase of the project. Construction is expected to end in late October.

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