SARANAC LAKE - The federal government will put up nearly a million dollars to enlarge and improve the Adirondack Regional Airport's passenger terminal, and airport officials are excited.
The $967,110 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, announced Monday, will realize a project that's been more than two years in the making.
"We've been trying pretty much any way we can to get more space in the terminal, and we finally found a way to do it," Airport Manager Corey Hurwitch said Monday.
Seen through a metal detector’s gateway, Transportation Safety Administration agent Lawton Iowa, of Saranac Lake, works at the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear in March. A federal grant will help enhance the TSA operation and passenger waiting area.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
The planned renovations will provide more room for Transportation Security Administration operations - helping the airport meet federal safety standards - and also renovate the passenger waiting areas on either side of the TSA security checkpoint.
"We don't really have the space for what's required, so this will allow us to have the latest and greatest screening equipment," Hurwitch said.
"One of the nicest things," according to Hurwitch, will be the addition of a restroom on the far side of the checkpoint. Currently, if someone has to go to the restroom after going through security, he or she has to go through security again. The new restroom will be handicapped accessible.
The project will also give TSA a private screening room and more back-office space for screening checked bags, Hurwitch said.
The Hertz car-rental desk will be positioned so it can be seen as one walks in the front door, unlike now. Cape Air's space would be reconfigured and remain about the same size.
"If you're looking at the front of the terminal, everything is going to bump out to the right into the Hertz parking lot," Hurwitch said.
The airport in Lake Clear is owned and run by the town of Harrietstown. In addition to serving private planes, it hosts multiple daily commercial passenger flights to and from Boston on Cape Air, partially subsidized through the federal Essential Air Service program.
Facility upgrades are mostly covered by the federal government. Earlier this month, the U.S. DOT announced it would pay $84,405 to redesign the airport's plane parking apron and under-drain pipe system. Poor drainage around the current apron led to its deterioration.
In each case, the U.S. DOT will pay 95 percent of the project costs, and the town and state will each cover 2.5 percent. For the terminal overhaul, that 2.5 percent is about $25,000. Hurwitch said that and the apron match are well within the town's $65,000 budget for airport capital projects this year.
The town previously had the terminal makeover designed with a separate federal grant.
"We looked at a few different options over the last two, three years to try to fix (the TSA's problems), and I think this latest design nailed it," longtime town Councilman and Airport Committee member Barry DeFuria said. "It's going to work out good."
"We worked with TSA officials from the local level all the way up to the Washington level to get their blessing on this," Hurwitch said. "It didn't look like we were going to get it because money's tight, but they were apparently able to find some for us."
U.S. Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Bill Owens cheered the grant Monday in a press release from Washington, highlighting the safety improvements.
"I am pleased to add this federal investment to the list of 'arrivals' at Adirondack Regional Airport," Schumer said.
"With investments like this to strengthen our airports, that keeps more flights on the move and keeps our economy growing," Gillibrand said.
"I applaud the DOT for investing in improvements at Adirondack Regional that will help our region attract more tourists and connect residents and business travelers to larger airline markets," Owens said.