The south terminal expansion project at the Dane County Regional Airport (DCRA) will take three more weeks before passengers can set foot inside, and officials said the addition to the Madison Regional Airport will go “above and beyond” amenities for domestic travelers and their service animals.
Dane County started construction of a 90,000-square-foot, $85 million expansion of the south terminal which includes retail and restaurant space, a business center and family areas, according to county officials. Neenah-based Miron Construction Co. and Middleton-based Mead and Hunt were the chosen general contractor and primary architect, respectively.
The first phase of construction is expected to be completed in early June and passengers will be able to use the southern terminal then, Dane County Regional Airport Director of Marketing and Communications Michael Riechers told The Daily Reporter during an onsite interview Monday. The second phase includes demolishing of the “old wing” of the southern building, which will allow space for large modern jets, he added.
The second phase is scheduled to be completed in early 2024. When the project is complete, all 16 gates will be operational at the airport, county officials said in a statement.
The airport started construction in 2019 when officials predicted they would need more space for a growing number of passengers, and the 90,000-square-foot addition would solve the problem of limited gate space, Riechers said.
Passengers using the expanded terminal will notice ample natural light provided by overhead skylights. They’ll find amenities to suit their needs, whether it’s a coworking office space for business travelers or a children’s area for families on the move. The airport aimed to go beyond what’s required for facilities such as child-sized bathrooms, nursing suites and service animal relief areas.
“We’re required to provide space and most other airports check the boxes, but we wanted to go above and beyond with space,” Riechers said.
The airport is transforming not only for passengers but for employees and the Wisconsin Air National Guard as well; Waukesha-based Payne & Dolan will pulverize and repave nine miles of perimeter road that connect airport terminals and Milwaukee-based KPH Construction renovated maintenance facility for three Lockheed Martin F-35 combat jets at Truax Field. The perimeter road project is budgeted at $1.85 million, Riechers added.
The perimeter road encircles DCRA’s runways and allows airport vehicles to travel between commercial and private terminals. When the road deteriorates, maintenance and airport staff run the risk of bringing migrating pebbles and rocks onto the runways which can damage the aircraft, Riechers said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also uses the road to manage wildlife interactions with human activity.
One recent USDA recommendation included cutting the grass lower adjacent to the runways and taxiways, which is no small endeavor, given the size of the airport is 3500 acres.
According to Riechers, keeping the grass mowed at a lower height will prevent insects from making their home in the fields near the airport. Those insets attract small birds which then attract birds of prey.
Riechers said birds are a risk to passengers when they hit aircraft engines. Birds are attracted to insects, so by keeping the lawn mowed at a lowered high, the risk of birds hitting engines near the airport are reduced significantly.
Air travelers won’t notice the perimeter road work, but the project can be disruptive to employees while crews work on nine miles of pavement piece by piece, Riechers said.
KPH Construction will reconstruct a new terminal and add parking spaces for fueling tankers. Additionally, the company is in the process of enhancing infrastructure for the newly arrived U.S. Airforce F-35s at Truax Field, company officials said. The company also broke ground for a two-story Medical Readiness Facility for the 115th Medical Group. The building has been in planning since 2013 but recently received final approval, company officials added.
Being under one roof will improve communication, productivity and team cohesiveness for the group, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jessica Sullivan, the 115th MDG commander, said in a statement. The group will move into the facility in spring of 2024, she added.
DCRA is served by five commercial airlines and is used by private, commercial and military entities, officials said. More than a million passengers use the airport every year, officials added.
Steve Schuster contributed to this report.