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Port Columbus Terminal Renovation Project Completed

The Columbus Regional Airport Authority says passenger traffic at Port Columbus rose in February as compared with the same month a year ago.

More than 493,000 people used the airport last month, up more than 11 percent from February of 2015. Officials credit the increased availability of flights and discount carriers. Passenger traffic at Rickenbacker Airport rose by nearly 43 percent last month, with more than 12,000 people using that facility. The figures are being released as a three-year terminal renovation project at Port Columbus  concludes. Mike Foley reports.

The $80 million project provides a more modern look to the ticket lobby, baggage claim area and concourses. Port Columbus officials say funding came from passenger facility charges and capital reserves, not local tax dollars. Columbus Regional Airport Authority President and CEO Elaine Roberts says the upgraded terminal provides a contemporary, comfortable and convenient facility for travelers while also showcasing the city.

“You know if you look at pictures from the before, we did not have very much natural light coming into the ticket lobby and it was really dark. And that’s what prompted us to start on this three-year program is how to get it more modern looking as well as take care of some functional systems behind the scenes. About half of the $80 million went into mechanical things, and technology investments. The rest of it is the images, the modernization and the aesthetics if you will. We’re standing in front of the atrium in the ticket lobby, where the mosaic to me is one of the most striking things. We’ve got bright color, we’ve got images of things that are exciting about our community…the dining scene, the culture, the zoo, the sports and it really showcases our community to people when they arrive here who may not have had much of an image of Columbus, but now they say wow, I had no idea.’

Two lounges display the airport’s history and an exhibit celebrates Ohio aviators. There are four new local restaurants, including the Short North Marketplace. Other improvements include faster Wi-Fi and upgrades to restrooms. The celebration of the project’s completion came a day after the bombings in Brussels. Roberts says there’s ongoing communication with the Department of Homeland Security. 

“We’ve had a lot of conversations with airports around the country, and there has not been any immediate threat to any U.S. airport. But we are certainly increasing vigilance and presence of police officers as well as undercover, our TSA partners, the canine teams, just everybody is being asked to be a lot more aware, situationally aware of what might be going on and report anything that  seems suspicious.”

Meanwhile, Port Columbus officials expect this to be the last major renovation to the 1958 terminal and believe it positions the airport to handle future passenger growth.  Port Columbus experienced a nearly seven percent growth in passenger traffic last year, serving 6.8 million travelers. The airport offers more than 150 daily departures to 33 destinations.   

Mike Foley joined WCBE in February 2000, coming from WUFT in Gainesville, Florida. Foley has worked in various roles, from producing news and feature stories to engineering Live From Studio A sessions. A series of music features Foley started in 2018 called Music Journeys has grown into a podcast and radio show. He also assists in developing other programs in WCBE's Podcast Experience. Foley hosts The Morning Mix, a weekday music show featuring AAA, Columbus-area and Ohio-based musicians, along with additional artists that inspire him.
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