GPIA Expansion Moves into Bidding Phase

Airport authority’s Jan. 12 action marks step forward for $100 million project that was stalled by pandemic

By Beacon Staff
Travelers wait by the baggage claim at Glacier Park International Airport on July 19, 2019. Beacon File Photo

A major $100 million expansion at Glacier Park International Airport (GPIA) took a step forward last week with the Flathead Municipal Airport Authority’s Jan. 12 approval of the project moving into the bidding phase.

The approval comes nearly a year after the airport authority announced in February 2020 that Swank Enterprises and Nevada-based Q&D Construction were awarded the contract to lead construction on the expansive project.

The airport authority’s Jan. 12 action will allow the two construction firms to begin the process of accepting bids on sub-contract work, according to a press release.

The expansion was originally slated to begin in 2020, but as passenger numbers plummeted during the pandemic, the airport authority decided to pause the project until benchmarks were met.

“The goal was to allow passenger traffic to return to 2017 numbers before we would consider moving forward with the expansion,” GPIA Director Rob Ratkowski said in a statement. “We have been watching the numbers almost daily, and passenger counts have stabilized very close to 2017. GPIA’s recovery has been the best in the state, and we are pleased to be taking the next steps in this project.”

The majority of the expansion work will focus on passenger terminals, with additional back-of-house improvements planned for operational areas such as TSA screening checkpoints and baggage-management spaces. The expansion will nearly triple the square footage of the existing airport to accommodate the ever-increasing passenger numbers.

Although early work will be underway as soon as April, the airport said the passenger experience will remain largely unchanged through the busy summer season. Preliminary work will take place outside in preparation for breaking ground on the basement facilities in late summer or early fall.

According to the press release, last week’s approval for the bidding phase “is the first step in delivering an airport plan that prepares GPIA for anticipated passenger growth for decades to come.”

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