Sunday, July 28, 2013

East Texas Regional (KGGG), Longview, Texas: Airport renovation on schedule for fall 2014 landing

 Airport Director Roy Miller goes over the floorplans for the remodel of the East Texas Regional Airport on Wednesday July 24, 2013.
(Photo Credit:   Michael Cavazos/News-Journal)

The greetings of travelers being welcomed home drifted through temporary walls separating a curtailed public area from the future lobby at East Texas Regional Airport one recent morning. 

The lobby that’s undergoing renovations inside the Henry Atkinson terminal is the first job of a multi-phase, $4.2 million renovation due for completion in fall 2014.

People waiting for loved ones will have a little more breathing room as early as November when the refurbished and enlarged public area is scheduled to reopen and work moves to other phases.

Few are crying foul, though, at being confined to the ticketing area as they wait for friends and family to land or to enter the secured passenger area.

“Right now, it seems to be going well,” said Airport Director Roy Miller. “We’ve received minimal complaints. Occasionally, we’ll get pretty crowded. That’ll be short-lived. In November, we’ll be opened up.”

Few complaints, but a pleasant surprise revealed itself when contractor RWC Enterprises pulled up the carpet in the lobby. The surprise was etched in the terrazzo tiling.

“We discovered a map of Gregg County and Northeast Texas,” Miller said. “It apparently dates to the original terminal, which was built in 1946 or ’47. It shows Longview and Tyler and Marshall and Jefferson and Clarksville (City). It apparently ran the full length of the building.”

Caked carpet glue hides all of the old floor art, except for a roughly 18-inch diameter scrubbed circle where the last two “Gs” of Gregg County are dark and clear. More will be uncovered.

“It’s in two tones. Gregg County is a darker color,” he said, pointing with his right foot to a round outline dimly visible beneath the caked-on carpet glue.

“Longview will be this circle. Over here is Marshall, right here, and Jefferson — these little circles. I think I found Pittsburg over there one day. Here’s Gladewater right there. Tyler’s down here somewhere, I just can’t find it. ... And they are connected by these metal strips. ... We’ll take a, probably, 20-by-10(-foot) square and restore it.”

With the reborn floor as a centerpiece, the renovated lobby also will include a baggage claim ramp that’s more than twice as long as the one now in use. Moving old offices from the old lobby area frees up more space, which should feel even roomier thanks to a glass front facade to the 10,000-square-foot first floor.

Fueled by a Federal Aviation Administration grant accounting for 90 percent of the cost, work on the lobby is running on time, Miller said.

“They’ve run all new ductwork, new plumbing, new electrical. They put in a new ceiling grid, they put in new lighting,” he said. “We’ll have a new, high-efficiency air conditioning system. That’s all Phase I.”

It’s not even the most challenging phase of the project for ongoing operations and the public.

Phases II will open a wider counter area for American Eagle, the airport’s passenger carrier with two flights daily.

Phase III will renovate existing public restrooms at the building’s first-floor midpoint.

Phase IV is the heart of the renovation, expanding the 50-seat, secured passenger area to 150 seats.

“That’s probably going to be the most challenging,” Miller said. “Because we’ve got to put the public somewhere, we’ve still got to screen them.”

Phase V installs restrooms in the new secured passenger area, saving flyers from repeating the Transportation Safety Administration search they now face if nature calls after they’re inside.

Somewhere toward those final phases, a covered boarding tunnel called a Jetbridge will be installed for passenger boarding protected from the elements.

The covered boarding will be complemented by an expansive awning where passengers will be able to get bags out of their vehicles without getting rained on.

“We should still be open in fall of 2014, if not before,” Miller said. “It’ll start to look significantly different toward the end of summer and early fall.”

Miller also said talks are continuing to win a third daily American Eagle flight.

“I want to get that third flight, so business people can get out of here in the morning and get back that night,” he said. “That’s real important.”

One thing won’t change: Extended parking in a parking lot rebuilt two years ago on a similar 90/10 federal/county partnership stays free.

“We’re going to get on a marketing campaign,” Miller said, “to let our friends in the communities on that map know we are their East Texas Regional Airport.”

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