A $65 million project is scheduled to begin later this year at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport terminal, including upgraded facilities and an expansion intended to ease crowding in anticipation of increased service.
The expansion plans include additional curb space at both ends of the terminal, a new bus waiting area on the lower level and new walkways at the terminal's east and west ends that will provide direct access to the baggage claim area, bypassing the main lobby where travelers must cross now.
"We're going to create exiting directly to the baggage claim areas without having to go through the checkpoint, to make the ease of your transition from your flight to your bag almost seamless," said NFTA director of aviation William Vanecek.
The baggage claim system will also undergo an upgrade. The three flat conveyor belts will be replaced by four carousel that will increase capacity, Vanecek explained.
Other updates include a newer children's play center and a work center that will allow travelers to charge their electronic devices.
The project, Vanecek explained, will also include environmentally-friendly themes, including a wall covered with plants at the eastern exit, solar panels on rooftops and a new semi-permeable pavement that will allow the collection of rain water for use with lawns on the grounds. The "green wall," as Vanecek called it, will not only filter the air but give arriving travelers a visually appealing welcome.
"This is going to be a way to show off the city before you get to the city," he said. "The airport experience is always big for every traveler. You get an immediate impression when you to go to some city that has a dated terminal. You can look at the downstate airports today, the LaGuardias of the world. There's a reason why they're rehabbing those. It's because as you walk in there, they seem dark, crowded, dingy and that's your first impression."
The project will be funded in part, Vanecek explained, through dollars collected from the Passenger Facility Charge, an existing fee charged to outgoing passengers. Other funding may come from airport food and beverage sales revenue.
Completion of the project is expected in 2019. While the project requires regulatory approval, Vanecek said officials do not anticipate any holdups.