Burlington International Airport to receive federal funding to aid expansion

By HAEUN PARK

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Burlington International Airport will receive a $10 Million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, used to fund a Terminal expansion project. Airport administrators hope the addition with alleviate lines at security checkpoints, and reduce the amount of personnel required for passenger processing.

As Burlington International Airport (BTV) celebrates its 100-year-anniversary, it is projected to receive a $10 million federal grant in the fall of 2020, which will be used to expand the size of the airport’s main terminal.  

In a press release last November, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao said that the $10 million grant is part of a $485 million federal investment in American airports,“[to] address safer airport operations, fewer airport delays, and greater ease of travel for air travelers.” 

For Burlington International Airport, these improvements will come in the form of an 18,000-square-foot expansion to centralize the two existing Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints into a single facility. Creating a conglomerate TSA checkpoint would require less personnel, according to Vermont Federal Security Director  Bruce McDonald. 

“Running two checkpoints requires probably 20% more people than it takes to run just one that has four or five lanes,” McDonald said. “You get a much more efficient operation during surges. It puts all of our eggs in one basket, and it greatly enhances screening efficiency.”

This boost in the TSA’s screening capacity comes at a much needed moment for the airport. In  recent years, BTV has experienced a significant growth in passenger traffic. According to a VTDigger article, the arrival of Frontier Airlines to BTV’s air service providers, upgrades in aircraft size among all airlines and new non-stop flights to Denver and Orlando resulted in a 14% rise in total passengers. The new expansion would meet the needs of an airport that is expected to continue to grow into the decade. 

“At the present, the two separate checkpoints causes an immense strain because we have eight, sometimes nine flights compressed within an hour in the early morning,” McDonald said. “At some points, especially during the summer and fall, we’re running at 20-30% over capacity. You just simply can’t keep up.” 

Presently, the airport’s two checkpoints are able to process an estimated 300 passengers per hour. In comparison, a centralized facility could process close to 800, Deputy Director of Aviation Nicolas Longo said in a Seven Days article. Many frequent travellers out of BTV, like Ella Kim ‘22, will benefit from a faster security screening process. 

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Current projects at Burlington International Airport include the construction of a new Marriott hotel. Construction on airport expansion is expected to begin late 2020 or early 2021.

“The $10 million grant allowing for expansion would continue to allow us out-of-state students to get through the airport with ease,” Kim said. “It would remove a lot of stressors in being able to fly home. Anything to make the airport better would be great, and if that comes in the form of faster TSA checkpoints, I love to hear it.”

Aside from the expansion to its main terminal, the airport is also pursuing other projects related to infrastructure and innovation. This March, Dew Construction is set to break ground on airport property for a new 108-room Fairfield Inn by Marriott hotel. BTV is also developing a new walkway connecting the north and south terminals and completing the third and final stage phase of improvements to its Taxiway G. In the meantime, the grant is expected to be confirmed Fall 2020, which would allow construction to begin either late this year or early spring of 2021. 

“I would say the expansion is a boon to the entire community including TSA,” McDonald said. “It’s a great thing, and we’ve needed it for years.”