Flathead Beacon: Infrastructure Deal Delivers $7.3M to Glacier Park International Airport Expansion

by Tristan Scott

As the $150 million terminal expansion at Glacier Park International Airport (GPIA) nears its halfway point, a bipartisan infrastructure deal brokered by Montana’s U.S. Sen. Jon Tester has delivered $7.3 million in funding to modernize and expand the facility.

The funding was announced this week and is part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), a bipartisan measure that Tester predicted would deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds to Montana, including $114 million for the state’s airports.

Tester was the only member of Montana’s congressional delegation to support IIJA. The $1.2 trillion bill was the first major legislative effort to succeed under the Biden administration and was opposed by Montana Republican Congressman Matt Rosendale and Sen. Steve Daines. The bill passed through Congress with bipartisan support, including a 69-30 vote in the Senate and was signed by President Joe Biden in November 2021.

Also in 2021, GPIA broke ground on a terminal expansion, a project that will nearly triple the airport’s footprint, from 75,000 square feet to 200,000. The expansion comes at a time when GPIA is experiencing a record-breaking number of travelers. 

The Airport Terminal Program was created through Tester’s IIJA, which he negotiated with a group of five Republicans, four Democrats, and President Biden.

Last December, Tester, a Democrat, wrote a letter of support to the FAA for Glacier Park International Airport’s grant application.

“As the Flathead continues to grow, it’s critical that we keep families and small businesses connected with the reliable infrastructure that’ll keep pace with that expansion,” Tester said in a prepared statement. “I was proud to work across the aisle to secure this funding for Glacier Park International Airport, and I know it will be put to good use to support travel and commerce in northern Montana for years to come. I’ll take on anyone in Washington to make sure our bipartisan infrastructure law continues to deliver results for rural America.”

Glacier Park International Airport will receive $7,300,000 to expand the existing terminal by adding a new gate, passenger screening space and restrooms; and increasing hold room space and the bag claim area. 

Tester previously secured $2,864,698 through IIJA for Glacier Park International Airport as a part of the $14,323,490 that will be awarded to the airport over five years through the separate FAA Airport Improvement Program, which can be used to construct or repair runways and taxiways as well as make terminal and gate improvements.

“It is incredible how far we’ve come in the past year and a half,” GPIA Director Rob Ratkowski, stated in a Feb. 15 press release. “It has been amazing to watch this structure take shape and we are looking forward to the completion of the first phase this fall. We know locals and travelers alike will enjoy the new amenities.”

Construction crews have completed steel erection and framing for Phase 1A, and weatherproofing is nearly complete. Windows will be added to complete exterior walls over the next several months. This phase of the project is expected to open later this year, ahead of the busy summer tourism season. GPIA reported 64,526 enplanements in July 2022 and 72,683 enplanements during July 2021.

After the completion of Phase 1A, crews will work on Phase 1B, which will include renovations and expansions to the ticketing area, the remainder of the TSA checkpoint and the remaining sections of the new grand hall. According to the press release, the grand hall will be “the central core and a focal point of the expanded airport” and will be partially finished during Phase 1A, but “will realize its full grandeur with the completion of Phase 1B construction in 2025.”

Tester touted projections that the IIJA would create more than 800,000 American jobs and lower costs for businesses while securing significant funding for Montana, including $2.82 billion for roads, highways and bridges; $2.5 billion to complete all authorized Indian water rights settlements; $1 billion to complete all authorized rural water projects through the Bureau of Reclamation; $65 billion to deploy broadband to areas across the country that lack internet access and additionally make online connectivity affordable; and $3.37 billion to reduce wildfire risk nationwide, among others.

Infrastructure Deal Delivers $7.3M to Glacier Park International Airport Expansion – Flathead Beacon