BY AMY MCVEY
The A.B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam has been working toward compliance with FAA regulations by constructing a third-floor arrivals corridor that will allow total separation between arriving and departing passengers.
The project was initially awarded to Black Construction Corp. on a $97 million bid, to be completed by September 2019.
By July 2020, the projected cost was more than $118 million with a hopeful finishing date between July 2021 and December 2021.
Executive Manager John “J.Q.” M. Quinata told the Journal how the budget had shifted.
“It started out at $117 million and then when we started breaking walls, the blueprints of the floor plan were different from the actual airport. The largest cost inflation was caused by needing to protect the airport building from earthquakes. There are a lot of seismic bracings that must be installed around the airport, so when the third-floor corridor is put in place the lower part of the airport will not collapse under the weight of the third floor.”
Construction delays continued to blight the project, especially when 500 Black Construction employees were exposed to COVID in November, resulting in a month of project shut down and increased cost. But after quarantine and more testing, construction resumed and was more productive than ever.
Quinata said GIA found a silver lining on the cloud of the pandemic, as the corridor construction was expedited due to the empty airport.
“COVID actually helped speed up the construction process in some ways, because we were able to close down a lot of the gates. The contractors were able to access most of the places they needed without being hampered by incoming aircraft,” he said.
The airport held a Topping Off Ceremony on Jan. 15 to celebrate the partial completion of the corridor and the airport’s 45th anniversary as an international hub.
The corridor is the length of three football fields and will alleviate all incoming traffic from the second floor. The first half of the International Arrivals Corridor — gates 4 through 10 — is projected to open in February or March.
The design allows for additional security lines as well as being mindful of the airport’s overall Guam proa design.
The third-floor arrivals corridor is restricted from any concession services as a federally regulated international arrivals area. Protocol dictates passengers must move through customs before any other activity. Because the arrivals traffic will be on the third floor, the departures floor will be less crowded and therefore able to open up new restaurants, shops, and the United Club, which according to Journal files is due to be redesigned.
Departing passengers will be able to dine and shop. All the new airport businesses will be Minimum Annual Guarantee tenants, providing a set monthly amount of revenue for the airport. Those concessions contribute to the overall operations of the airport and will help balance the cost of the new corridor.
The reduced number of travelers coming to and from Guam fits well with the partial opening. GIA will be able to accommodate all travelers with the new federally compliant system while the construction of the remainder of the corridor is completed.
“We don’t have the hard numbers yet for the overhead cost of the new corridors. We are trying to keep everything to a minimum due to COVID, so we will only be using part of the terminal.” Quinata said.
He said GIA is ensuring that fiscal matters are going to be realistically projected while still meeting high standards of service and business.
“The airport projects, known as the capital improvement projects — that money is set aside from the budget to run the airport. We are waiting for the FAA to give us a stimulus, but along with that we also have money set aside for lost revenues for the airport. We have refinanced and restructured our 2013 bonds and our 2019 bonds, and that will give us some debt service coverage as well as accommodations for the shortages in our budget this year. If everything aligns correctly, we will be able to manage for 2021 and look on positively for 2022.” Quinata said.
GIA is still discussing the final negotiation with Black Construction to make sure the company caps off the total funds that will be allocated to pay for the corridor, he said.
“The cap has not been decided yet. Last year we calculated conservatively, with mind for delays. The conservative projected final cost is $149 million, but our contract management speculates that we are being conservatively high, and we are very confident it will be much lower than that,” he said.
With the partial opening of the corridor in a few weeks, there are more ceremonies planned.
“If there is an available occupancy permit, then we will be able to cut the ribbon for the west third-floor arrivals corridor,” Quinata said. mbj