Funds for New Designs at Columbia Regional are in Planning Stages

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COLUMBIA - Mayor Bob McDavid said in an interview Wednesday finding sources of revenue for the new terminal and garage at Columbia Regional Airport are currently in the planning stages.

Columbia Regional Airport officials took their first look at plans for a new $33.7 million dollar terminal last month. The Columbia City Council reviewed the architectural plans to replace the 44-year-old structure.

The council's design consultant, Parsons Brinckerhoff, suggested the construction of an 800-car parking garage adjacent to the new terminal, which would have room for three airplane gates and capacity for as many as six gates. The airport currently has asphalt surface lots that are free for passengers.

McDavid said no decision has been made to replace the airport terminal, especially since the project lacks the necessary funding.

"For me, the most important thing is to increase the demand for air traveling," said McDavid. "I believe the demand is there and once we show the demand, the supply will increase. That means more planes and more destinations."

The current terminal has one gate and American Airlines is the only carrier now flying out of Columbia Regional Airport. McDavid also said his number one priority is to keep a healthy and profitable relationship with American Airlines.

"It's a relationship that takes us nonstop to the second busiest airport in the world--Chicago O'Hare--and the fourth--Dallas Fort Worth," said McDavid. ""We're interested in more planes and more flights to even more destinations. When this happens, we need to do something about the terminal."

Steven Sapp, city public information specialist, said the current terminal can handle 50 passengers about three times a day.

"A lot of the plans are on our website," said Sapp. "But the consultants at Parsons and Brinckerhoff suggested designs with a two-level, 30,000-square-foot terminal."

Frequent flyer Crystal Nelson said she thinks the new terminal and garage would be great for the airport.

"Nobody would ever want to pay more taxes", said Nelson. "But as a frequent flyer, it would probably be a good idea for Columbia because the airport is a little behind some of the other airports I fly out of."

Making up the costs of the future renovations could result in higher ticket prices and even parking fees.

"We have not yet identified that revenue stream," said McDavid. "But before we choose any option as a revenue stream, it will go before the citizens of Columbia to vote. We're not empowered to make that kind of commitment and we must get approval from our citizens in Columbia."

The plans for the new terminal design can be found at the Columbia Regional website.