EDMONTON – After nearly three years of construction, the new $258-million Fort McMurray International Airport terminal opened for passengers Monday morning.
Government and airport officials say the new facility is vital for the municipality of Wood Buffalo, which has experienced a 75 per cent increase in air passenger traffic since 2010. The average annual increase at North American airports is three percent.
“We are one of the fastest growing municipalities in all of North America and we need to make sure that our infrastructure is keeping pace with our growth, so that’s exactly why,” explains Fort McMurray MLA Don Scott. “Our old airport was not able to keep up with the capacity.”
The old terminal could handle 250,000 passengers per year. The new terminal is expected to have 1.3-million passengers go through it during its first year.
“The first impression in coming into Fort McMurray if you’re flying is obviously the terminal and it wasn’t a very good first impression, that changes dramatically overnight, literally,” says Scott Clement, Fort McMurray Airport Authority.
Travelers have similar sentiments.
“It makes it easier that’s for sure, and coming here and not being cramped in a small airport, it actually makes a big difference,” says Latif Uyaln.
Construction was a long and challenging process but a necessary one, according to Clement.
“This one is kind of a particularly unique on a number of fronts. It’s a greenfield terminal. We had to go across the field because the current terminal could not be expanded. There are not many greenfield terminals built in North America.”
The old terminal will still be used for workforce transportation. It’s expected to transport about 275,000 people every year.
There could be more expansion in the near future. With the capacity for the new terminal being 1.5-million annual passengers, airport officials believe more development could be necessary within the next five years.
With files from Fletcher Kent
© Shaw Media, 2014