HIGHFILL -- Northwest Arkansas National Airport officials broke ground Tuesday on a $34 million terminal renovation and modernization project expected to take a couple of years to complete.
Officials also unveiled several amenities that should be coming to the airport later this year, including a new fast-service restaurant -- Slim Chickens -- which is expected to open in the terminal in the fourth quarter of the year.
Other upcoming amenities include online prebooking for reserving parking spaces at the airport, TSA PreCheck and guest passes allowing nonflyers to go through the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint to wait with guests for their flights or to meet guests who are flying in at arrival gates. Airport officials said they hope the move will give restaurants and other shops along the concourse more business.
TSA PreCheck is a membership program offering dedicated airport security lines and streamlined screening at about 200 airports across the U.S. Travelers with TSA PreCheck can use dedicated security lines, keep their shoes on, and leave their liquids and laptops in their bags. It's also faster -- most travelers wait fewer than five minutes at airport security.
Design work is also continuing on an area Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will use to display original art from its collection in the terminal.
Airport officials also are expecting good news from the Arkansas Department of Transportation on the long-awaited airport access road by early next year.
Philip Taldo, who represents Springdale on the airport board and is also a state highway commissioner, said most of the right of way has been acquired and plans are ready. The access road project is expected to be done during the same time as the extension of the Springdale Northern Bypass from Arkansas 112 north of Elm Springs to U.S. 412 in Tontitown.
The main entrance to the terminal will remain open through spring break because a rush of pedestrians is expected. Construction will overtake the front of the building over the next few weeks after spring break.
The drop-off lane in front of the terminal will be closed, the main entrance will be closed and the primary entrances and exits will be the east and west vestibules of the terminal during construction. A temporary wall will be built along the front of the terminal to protect the public.
The renovation will add more elevators, escalators and stairwells and new baggage-handling equipment. The federal TSA and police areas will be renovated. There also will be a host of architectural upgrades, including new paint, terrazzo floors, lighting and sound baffles, a new information desk and a canopy along the front of the terminal covering the drop-off area and new flight information displays.
The work is expected to take two years. About $26 million in Federal Aviation Administration grants are being finalized to help pay for the work.
The Northwest Arkansas National Airport Board of Directors:
Agreed to have staff go ahead with plans to expand the fuel farm at the airport. The fuel farm has a capacity of 2.5 days worth of fuel on hand. Airport officials said they should keep five days of fuel on site.
Agreed to have staff go ahead with a design for a new parking deck west of the terminal that will house rental car companies and their cars. The deck is expected to have 600 to 1,000 parking slots. The move will free public parking in the existing deck.
Approved a 926-space expansion of the outdoor parking lot south of the terminal at an estimated cost of $5.6 million.
Approved adding eight more chargers on levels two and three of the parking deck that can be used to recharge up to 16 electric cars. The chargers cost about $132,000. The parking deck has eight chargers.
Source: Northwest Arkansas National Airport