$1.3B airport modernization project hits halfway point

$1.3B airport modernization project hits halfway point
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - If you've been to Honolulu International Airport recently, you'll have noticed: Construction is going on just about everywhere you look.

The work is part of a major, $1.3 billion modernization project aimed at upgrading the inside and outside of an airport long criticized for being shabby, dated and lacking in many of the bells and whistles of modern airports.

"We're actually around two-thirds of the way through time-wise, but we're about halfway through construction-wise," said Jeff Chang, engineering program manager with the state Department of Transportation's Airports Division.

Work should be completed in about four years.

Funds already been spent on digital flight information boards and new bathrooms, and officials promise more is on the way to better accommodate the thousands of travelers who pass through the airport daily.

"In a few years, they'll have a nice modern airport," Chang said.

One big milestone will happen in a few months, when the state will break ground on its Mauka Concourse. The terminal will be on the mauka side of the interisland terminal.

Chang said it will have six new wide-body gates or 11 new narrow-body gates or a combination of the two.

In the overseas terminal, meanwhile, the busiest security checkpoint has been enclosed and air-conditioned and space is being prepared for new vendors.

And one significant gem in the makeover: The construction of an outdoor garden and common area improvements, which were paid for through a public-private partnership.

"They're contributing $60 million," Chang said. "The state doesn't have to come up with any of that money."

Not so obvious but equally important are energy upgrades. DOT has done a $150 million retrofit.

"It saves about half of our electricity, but to the passenger what they experience is the airport's brighter because we use LEDs," Chang said.

Another major project set to get underway soon is the building of a five-level structure to house rental car companies. The 1.8 million-square-foot building will include 2,250 parking stalls for rental cars and another 1,550 for storage.

Eventually, the terminals themselves will be re-named and gates re-numbered. Even signs leading to the airport will change.

"And then we'll put associated signage from the freeway all the way to curbside at the airport to help people navigate since that's one of the common complaints we get from the passengers," Chang said.

The state first proposed the airport renovation project a decade ago. After some early delays, the Transportation Department says the project is now on time and on budget.

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