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Bradley Renewal Isn't Grounded Yet

By SHAWN R. BEALS | Courant Staff Writer

July 01, 2008

WINDSOR LOCKS - Bradley International got the one-two punch last week: It will lose its much-ballyhooed nonstop flights to Los Angeles and Amsterdam this fall.

But those setbacks aren't enough at least not yet to make the airport scrap any part of its long-term redevelopment plans, including a replacement for Terminal B and a new parking garage.

Kiran Jain, the airport's marketing and route development manager, said the flight cancellations are entirely related to the rising price of fuel, not the marketing of the airport.

"The master plan will stay on track," Jain said Monday.

Bradley is now nearing the completion of the first phase of construction, the $200 million expansion of Terminal A, which includes 23 gates and the addition of a 3,500-space parking garage, opened in 2001.

Construction on Terminal A is expected to be finished by early 2009.

The next phase includes the closing and eventual demolition of Bradley's Murphy Terminal, or Terminal B, built in 1951 and the oldest operating airport terminal in the country. The terminal could be torn down by 2011.

Two years ago, state transportation officials said the second new terminal could be ready by 2014. But now the timetable for building a second terminal will depend on passenger traffic, state aviation administrator Stephen Korta said.

"If the demand is there, we'll get that thing built," Korta said.

Korta said the airport is doing what it can to be in a position to either build the new terminal or cancel the plans altogether. He said Bradley is making room for a new parking garage and terminal so if the time comes they can start building.

The outlook for commercial passenger aviation isn't especially promising right now.

Airport and airline officials across the country fear that high jet fuel and gasoline prices will dramatically raise ticket prices and travel expenses and will turn people off to traveling by air.

Korta said Bradley is now operating at only about 60 percent of its capacity.

The loss of the nonstop flights was a blow to the visibility of Bradley, which has struggled over the years to take its place among the country's major airports. The end of the Amsterdam flight, scheduled for early October, was particularly disappointing because attracting airline service to Europe is one of Bradley's major goals.

Bradley officialsare predicting the number of passengers for the rest of the year will stay level or raise about 2 percent at the most, Jain said.

After Sept. 11, 2001, air travel took 18 months to return to its previous levels, Korta said. "The demand did come back" to a point where a new terminal was needed, he said.

However, reports from airlines indicate that they may be in a worse situation with fuel prices than they were after 9/11, so the timing of the next phase of construction at Bradley remains uncertain.

By early 2009, Terminal A will be completed, with shops, including a bookstore, and a sit-down restaurant. Security lanes will be moved from the older section of the terminal to the main checkpoint area. The airport must also renovate a baggage claim area and the United Airlines ticket counter closest to the Sheraton hotel, which is also undergoing a multimillion-dollar makeover.

In addition to the Terminal A expansion, Bradley will start and complete the relocation of an electrical vault below Terminal B, the resurfacing of the main runway and the redirection of the Route 20 connector to I-91 to allow easier access to the airport, Korta said.

In the mid-1990s, it became clear that the terminals at Bradley were becoming outdated and needed to be expanded to accommodate the airport's growth. Terminal A was paid for with about 80 percent state and 20 percent federal funds.

All told, the Bradley projects could cost more than $500 million.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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