In the summer months, planes pack the Juneau International Airport’s aircraft parking lots.
The congestion has become an issue, Airport Manager Patty Wahto said during a Wednesday ride on JIA’s jetway. Managers have had to get creative to find room for all the traffic, sometimes closing down parts of the taxiway to tie down large aircraft, or allowing exceptions or waivers.
“It is filled to capacity in summer months,” Wahto said.
Now, help is on the way. Construction began a few weeks ago on a parking expansion at the airport in what Wahto called the Northeast Development Area. The project holds at bay concern that the airport would ever have to turn back a paying customer.
“It’s going to allow us to house what we haven’t been able to house lately — just a lot of traffic,” Wahto said.
Construction crews will pour 28,000 tons of asphalt that will more than double the area available for plane parking. Construction company SEACON built an asphalt plant on the site to accommodate the build, Wahto said.
The NEPA paving will provide aircraft access to a strip of land next to Yandukin Drive, which JIA plans to lease out for airplane hangers. Before the paving, it didn’t make sense to build a hangar there. Now, it does, Wahto said.
“Quite frankly, it allows development in this area,” Wahto said during a tour of the construction site.
The Federal Aviation Administration paid for 93.75 percent of the $10.8-million project cost. The rest was funded from City and Borough of Juneau sales taxes and airport revenue.
SEACON’s bid was $8.75 million. Oversight and engineering tests, among other costs, round out the project budget, Wahto said.
On Wednesday, a fleet of construction workers and heavy equipment were hard at work building the expansion. Money for the project came through just a few weeks ago, allowing work to begin in dry weather this fall, instead of next spring and summer. The project deadline is July 1, Wahto said.
About 36 tie down spots for smaller aircraft as needed. As large as a C17 will be able to park there.
The airport will have access to a geothermal loop under the asphalt. That means the airport and plane owners won’t have to spend as much money on snow removal.
“It’s not meant to give you a lot of heat, but it’s going to give you something, it’s going to melt some snow,” Wahto said.
Jet bridge nears completion
The airport has four gates, but only three of them connect customers directly to airplanes.
Airplane access at Gate 2 required passengers to walk down a staircase and outside before climbing steps into a plane.
In a few weeks, Wahto said, construction will be complete on a new jet bridge at Gate 2. Entering a plane there will now be more like boarding a plane at any other gate.
The addition means easier access for those with limited mobility.
“For anybody, it’s not having to go out in the weather, but especially it will be helpful for those with the mobility issues,” Wahto said.
Like the parking expansion, the FAA paid for 93.75 percent of the $2-million jet bridge, with the remainder sourced from city and airport funds.
• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.