Source: Times Colonist
Author: Carla Wilson
Victoria airport, spurred by passenger surge, could speed expansion plan
A “massive” growth in passenger numbers at Victoria International Airport is prompting officials to consider embarking on expansion and upgrades sooner than originally planned.
Last year brought a high of 1,856,421 passengers through the airport. That’s up by 8.5 per cent from the previous record of 1,710,825 in 2015.
“We’ve seen consistently strong growth among our domestic air carriers,” Geoff Dickson, president and chief executive officer of the Victoria Airport Authority, said Monday.
New Delta Air Lines service to Seattle boosted trans-border passenger numbers, he said. Higher capacity in charters heading to sunny climates during winter increased international traffic. “The challenge now is to continue to facilitate and enable continued growth through prudent and timely infrastructure investments,” Dickson said.
The airport had expected to hit the two million mark in 2020, but it appears that could happen sooner, said James Bogusz, airport authority vice-president of operations and development.
“We are quite well ahead of what we would have anticipated going into 2017. So if anything, we are looking to advance our capital program, even beyond what our master plan had shown. That’s very exciting.”
The growth has prompted reviews of surface parking for passengers, capacity for jet bridges and capacity at the terminal building, he said. A jet bridge is a passenger boarding system connecting a terminal to a plane.
“We are really looking at taking plans that we thought may be five or six years out and bringing those in a little bit, depending on if this growth continues,” Bogusz said.
A $5.75-million job to repave the 5,000-foot-long secondary runway will likely run from early summer to early fall this year. The well-used runway does not normally handle full-sized jets, but rather Dash 8s, Q400s, and other smaller planes, Bogusz said.
It will be fitted with new LED lighting that will reduce maintenance needs and use of electricity.
“I can’t underscore enough that overlaying a runway on an active airfield is a very complicated project,” he said.
“It’s not as if you can just close your airport for three weeks and say: ‘Go ahead and pave.’ So a lot of the work is done at night, during off hours, and portions of the work could be done during the daytime when operations could allow for that,” Bogusz said.
The main 7,000-foot-long runway was repaved in 2014.
As with the main runway, the secondary runway will be covered by a grid of grooves to direct rainwater away and avoid pooling of water. “When a plane lands, it just cannot hydroplane and that is a really, really important safety improvement,” Bogusz said.
Design work is underway for a $10-million to $12-million proposal to expand the terminal building to the north. It would create more seating and more concession space.
The plan is to go before the airport authority board in the summer. If approved, the work would be completed over 18 to 24 months, Bogusz said.
The airport authority is constantly seeking new airlines to serve Victoria. It’s not clear if the low-cost airline NewLeaf will return. It served Victoria between July and early December last year. Asked about its plans, a spokesperson indicated there might be some word in about a week.
Still to come on airport lands is the $35-million Gateway shopping centre at the corner of Beacon Avenue and Patricia Bay Highway. The airport authority is waiting for a development permit application from developer Omicron, Bogusz said.