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Eastern Iowa Airport may delay next phase of terminal remodeling to accommodate larger planes

Larger planes could lead to physical expansion

(FILE PHOTO) A jetway and the control tower at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids as seen from the tarmac. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
(FILE PHOTO) A jetway and the control tower at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids as seen from the tarmac. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

The Cedar Rapids Airport Commission may delay the start of the next phase of a $50 million remodeling of the passenger terminal at the Eastern Iowa Airport.

Airport Director Marty Lenss told the commission at its Jan. 22 monthly meeting the airport has experienced a number of significant changes since an updated master plan was approved in May 2014.

“We have had considerable growth in aircraft size,” Lenss said. “We are really feeling it in apron and jetway spacing. We will look at some of the forecasts completed in 2014 and identify some changes that we should be looking at in phase four from what was originally envisioned.”

If there are physical square-footage impacts, he noted, “we will need to begin having a broader conversation with the airlines before we moved forward.”

The original phase-four design called for widening the upper C concourse to provide additional seating for passengers waiting to board airplanes. Lenss said physical expansion of the concourse may be needed to provide greater separation between jetways to park larger aircraft next to each other.

“Historically, we’ve been able to park two regional jets and use one jetway or boarding bridge,” he said. “It’s a very efficient use of space to do it that way.

“With a Boeing 717, Airbus A319 or MD-80, we are not able to use one boarding bridge for two airplanes of that size.”

Pausing construction for as much as a year after the conclusion of phase three of the remodeling in 2019 will not affect the operation of the terminal, Lenss said.

“We will have a fully functioning terminal,” he said. “We need to make sure that we don’t overbuild, but have the right size facility for what is happening.

“The commissioners are trying to read the crystal ball, which is really difficult right now. There are a lot of impacts on commercial aviation, including pilot shortages which is driving the increase in aircraft size — not just in Cedar Rapids, but nationally.”

The task order approved by the commission on Jan. 22 will pay the airport’s engineering consultant, Foth Infrastructure and Environment LLC, an amount not to exceed $263,146 for phase four preliminary design-phase services.

The work will take into account the larger aircraft, more airlines serving the airport since 2014, and additional destinations for travelers.

At the same time passenger traffic has increased, the airport has experienced growth in cargo shipments, Lenss said.

“We are beginning to evaluate the long-term planning with cargo and the commercial terminal next to each other,” Lenss said. “We may need to have separate facilities for them at separate locations.”

He expressed optimism that the development of Alliant Energy’s Logistics Park, the Big Cedar Industrial Center and the Cedar Rapids Land and Air Super Park would increase air cargo volume.

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“We will need more space for cargo when that happens. We are just trying to do some advance planning,” he said.

The Eastern Iowa Airport does not receive any city or county property tax revenue, though it is owned by the City of Cedar Rapids. It is a self-sufficient entity deriving its annual revenue from facilities rentals and fees, user fees, federal and state grants, concession revenue and farmland rentals.

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