Work hums along at airport, with a few bumps along way

Construction project at Charleston International Airport.

Anyone who’s been to Charleston International Airport since the new year started has run head-on into the redevelopment and expansion of the passenger terminal.

In short, it’s a construction zone. From concrete barriers closing off four traffic lanes in front of the building to temporary walls and makeshift corridors, visitors, airlines and merchants are experiencing a few inconveniences. And they will for months to come. Construction isn’t set to be completed until August 2015.

The $189 million project is on schedule and on budget, according to Matt McCoy with Michael Baker Corp., the firm hired by the airport to oversee construction.

“We have no lost-time injuries since the start of the project,” McCoy said last week.

The phased-in construction schedule is moving along.

In late March, the new rental car pavilion will be complet-ed on the left wing of the ter- minal, said Hernan Pena, chairman of the airport’s re-development committee. The central energy plant, being constructed out of view of the traveling public, is on the rise and should be finished by August. Pilings for the extension of Concourse B, where five boarding gates are being added, have been installed and utility installation is underway.

Outside Concourse A, groundwork is being done to make way for the new consoli-dated security checkpoints site and administrative offices overhead. That should be completed by the end of the year, Pena said.

A third new luggage carousel ought to be ready to roll in February. When it is, the other two baggage claim sites will be dismantled one at a time and replaced. That way, two carousels will always be in operation.

The Delta Air Lines check-in counter will also be temporarily relocated during construction across the hall from its current site.

And likely the most noticeable change is the walling off of the central atrium and the temporary walkways around it. A dome will be placed over the site to filter more natural light into the building. That complicated aspect, which involves removing part of the roof, is expected to take several months. Completion is expected early next year.

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Passengers will notice renovation of the front wall of the structure. The brick facade will be removed and replaced with more glass, allowing more light into the terminal.

“Everyone is working together nicely to get a quality product,” Pena said.

But it hasn’t come without a few hiccups. The terminal had to bring down its power one night after the electric meter was damaged and had to be replaced. A waterline leak had to be repaired. Below the terminal, a baggage cart driver ran into the belt for the third carousel. The driver lost driving privileges on the apron. U.S. Airways, which hired the driver, is paying for repairs.

“We are going to continue to have these typical problems with a construction project like this,” said Paul Campbell, airports director for the Charleston County Aviation Authority. “We are trying not to inconvenience passengers as much as possible. In the end, we are going to have a much better airport.”

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524.