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Dane County airport anticipates start of $85 million south terminal expansion
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Dane County airport anticipates start of $85 million south terminal expansion

Dane County Regional Airport

The Dane County Regional Airport's south terminal expansion project would yield an additional three gates, bringing the total to 16. 

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The Dane County Regional Airport on Madison's north side is close to starting construction on its $85 million south terminal expansion project — the largest single project it has undertaken. 

The project calls for a two-story, 90,000 square-foot-expansion, with half allocated for gate space and passenger services and half for offices, storage and mechanical space. It would involve removing the current south end of the terminal and existing six gates and adding on three, bringing the total to 16 gates. 

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said in a statement Monday that the project will “jumpstart” efforts to rebuild the region’s economy. 

"The Dane County Regional Airport is the gateway to this region's economy,” Parisi said. “When complete, this will allow the Dane County Regional Airport to bring in additional flights, creating additional flexibility for business and vacation travelers, and really cement our airport's status as a true gem in this region." 

On Wednesday, the airport hopes to receive final approval from the city of Madison’s Urban Design Commission for the expansion plans. Later this week, airport marketing director Michael Riechers said the project anticipates receiving its building permit from the city, which would allow work to begin. 

Riechers said the expansion aims to grow with Madison and meet the needs of the business and leisure travel market, noting that 2019 saw a record number of passengers and the airport was running out of space.

He said the project would provide the airport flexibility to add airlines, passenger volume and service to existing and new destinations. Though airlines make those decisions, the expansion could make Dane County more attractive. 

“With more gates at the airport, it’s going to give us the capacity for airlines to increase their volume to Madison,” Riechers said. 

According to the project’s UDC application, the expansion would be able to accommodate passenger aircrafts Airbus A320 and A310 as well as Boeing's 767 “in an efficient non-restrictive design.” 

It would also align with the existing building design, provide flexibility for future opportunities, and use materials that are durable and last a long time with low-maintenance. Also, the services provided would be “all-inclusive and promote usability by all passengers.” 

Riechers said there are plans for a service animal relief area, space for a new restaurant, nursing suite, play area for children and more seating next to the gates.

During construction, the airport will remain in service, according to the project documents. Richers said the project, which is funded by airport revenue and user fees, is expected to be done in 2023.  

The project is currently being reviewed by city agencies as part of the site plan review process. Because the development is considered a public project, the UDC does not have authority over site or landscape improvements. However, it can make advisory recommendations. 

“Staff has no concerns regarding the proposal,” according to a memo from UDC Secretary Janine Glaeser.

[Nonstop routes slow to return to Madison airport]

The proposal is the latest addition to the airport in recent years. 

In 2018, the airport announced a significant modernization effort. This included replacing aircraft boarding bridges and new gate seating areas, restrooms and security systems, among other improvements.  

Prior to that in 2006, the airport completed a $65 million expansion that doubled the airport’s size. Two years later, the airport added a $30 million, 1,240-space parking ramp next to an existing 1,600-space parking structure. 

The airport is also home to the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing, which is moving forward with construction of a 19,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art F-35 flight simulator facility. 

In 2018, the Department of Natural Resources found PFAS contamination in soils and groundwater underneath the guard’s base after years of using PFAS-laden firefighting foam at the airport. The so-called forever chemicals travel from storm drains at the airport and other potentially contaminated sites into Starkweather Creek, which flows into Lake Monona.

Since then, Dane County, the city of Madison and the Wisconsin Air National Guard — all named by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in 2019 as responsible for remediating contamination at the airport — have been grappling with remediation. 

Riechers said soil won’t leave the property as a part of the south terminal expansion project. He explained that there will be excavation at one end of the project to pour foundations, and that will be moved to the other end while the second set of foundations are poured. 

“The intent is for 100% of the soil to get backfilled and remain in place after the foundations are set,” Riechers said. “In the event that there is excess material, it will remain on airport property, as was the case for other airport improvement projects in the past.” 

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