Boise Airport to undergo $100M reconstruction

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BOISE, Idaho -- Don't let the image of wide-open spaces in this mountainous state, which is inhabited by only 1.3 million residents, fool you.

Boise Airport has been one of the nation's fastest-growing airports, according to airport director John Anderson, doubling its annual passenger count in five years to 2.8 million last year.

From the 1960s through the 1980s, its terminal was expanded in phases, but part still dates back to the 1930s.

"It's wonderful what you can do with carpeting and paint," explains Anderson, who doesn't mind telling you that a local paper has described his airport in an editorial as "rinky-dink."

But that is about to change.

The city-owned airport is embarking on Idaho's largest single public works project, he said -- a $100 million terminal reconstruction and roadway program.

Work begins this fall on such initial projects as new utilities, aircraft apron improvements and rental car relocation. New roadways will be built next year.

Terminal reconstruction will take place in two phases, starting early next year and completed by the third quarter of 2003.

The old adjacent terminal will be demolished except for the newest concourse, which will be incorporated into the new design.

Boise's isolation, Anderson notes, is the airport's advantage. Except for several small airports, it has the state with the largest amount of wilderness in the continental U.S. to itself, he said.

Four miles from downtown, Boise Airport serves far more than a metropolitan population of 375,000.

"We draw on a huge area, a radius of at least 150 miles, and until recently we did no marketing," Anderson said.

Tourism is the state's second largest industry, and visitors think nothing of flying to Boise then driving 130 miles to the ski slopes of Sun Valley.

However, Anderson said, the airport's big growth has come from new companies and business traffic, which accounts for two-thirds of its passengers.

"We have a tremendous high-tech industry," he said, noting that companies include Hewlett-Packard and memory-chip maker Micron Technology, which has a headquarters here.

However, growth has flattened: last year's 2.8 million passengers were only 9% above 1998.

The airport's seven carriers have 180 daily arrivals and departures, flying to 16 cities as far east as Chicago.

Southwest Airlines has the largest market share (35%), followed by Horizon Air (30%).

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