Missoula Current: With Grant, Missoula Airport Set to Add New Phase to Terminal

by Martin Kidston

While construction of the east concourse at Missoula Montana Airport’s passenger terminal advances, a federal grant will enable airport officials to include the third and final phase of the project sooner than anticipated.

The Missoula County Airport Authority this week officially accepted a $6 million grant from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and its terminal program. It then entered into an engineering agreement with Morrison-Maierle to update the Phase 3 design, which will further extend the east concourse.

Doing so will add one or two more jet bridges, according to deputy airport director Tim Damrow.

“In 2022, we had Morrison-Maierle design Phase 3 – the extension of the east concourse, adding one or possibly two jet bridges,” Damrow said. “That added jet bridge is what’s going to provide the real value here at the airport.”

Airport officials had Phase 3 designed in hopes of finding the funding to pay for the project. That funding came through last month when Sen. Jon Tester announced the airport would receive $6 million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The announcement was part of a $1 billion round of funding to upgrade airport facilities in 44 states. The funding earmarked for Missoula enabled airport officials to pull plans for Phase 3 off the shelf and set the project into motion.

“Morrison-Maierle will go back and revamp our design. We’ll figure out how to phase it into our current project,” said Damrow. “We were going to stop at Phase 2, but it’s pretty easy to keep going.”

The airport plans to bid Phase 3 of the project in April and add it to the current phase of work. The east concourse, when completed, will include three or four additional jet bridges with the extension included in Phase 3, bringing the airport’s total number of gates to eight, each with larger passenger hold rooms.

Phase 2 and 3 also includes a second concession area and family restrooms, similar to those in the south concourse. Car rental and baggage claim will also be included in Phase 2.

“The east entrance will eventually serve baggage claim and rental cars,” said Damrow. “There will be multiple belts that provide baggage up and into the concourse into baggage claim, onto one of two baggage carousels.”

The airport finished and opened Phase 1 in 2022. It represented the most expensive phase of the project at around $75 million and took several years to complete. Phase 2 is estimated at $42 million and Phase 3 at roughly $10 million, though the cost hasn’t yet been pinned down.

Damrow said crews are getting ready to connect the two buildings, creating one seamless terminal.

“Our pre-security restrooms on level two will disappear over the next couple of months as that makes way for a secondary elevator, which will join the phases together. It’s making way for that east concourse,” Damrow said. “We’re getting ready for that roof to be placed here in the coming weeks. Hopefully the weather holds out for us so we can get everything dried in below so we can continue progress on everything else.”

Airport Director Brian Ellestad said the additional room at ground level included with Phase 3 will provide needed storage for equipment.

“We’ll have a lot of space underneath and turn that into some semi-heated storage during the winter for airlines to ensure all their equipment works during this transition to electric,” he said. “We’ve got to keep that a little warmer. We have a good place to store ground equipment.”