Friday, February 25, 2011

Report: Cost of new airport starts at $189M

Insiders say latest estimate is ‘no surprise’

Express Staff Writer

A preliminary engineering report on the most likely site being considered as a replacement for Friedman Memorial Airport—recently released by the Federal Aviation Administration—estimates an airport construction cost that is about $40 million more than had been generally assumed.

The report also contains geological analyses and preliminary site plans. The leading candidate site is called Site 10A, located in southern Blaine County near the Lincoln County line.

"Based on the information obtained from our subsurface exploration, the site can be developed for the proposed project," the report states.

The report was done in support of an environmental impact statement on the project being prepared by the FAA, and will be a key component of a financial-feasibility analysis being carried out by Ricondo and Associates, an aviation consulting firm working on the project.

The report contains the first published federal estimates of construction costs for a new airport and could affect a decision on whether the project is financially feasible.

To build an airport at Site 10A, the report estimates a construction cost of about $189 million. Estimates discussed in local meetings on the subject up to now have been between $130 million and $150 million.

A second report for Site 12, along the Blaine-Camas county line east of Timmerman Junction, estimates a cost of about $241 million.

Friedman Airport Manager Rick Baird said the numbers were "not surprising" since they are preliminary estimates.

"But that is not to say they are achievable," he said. "Ricondo and Associates will now use these numbers as part of their financial-feasibility analysis. When that analysis is presented to the [Friedman Memorial Airport Authority], it will contain a qualified opinion from Ricondo about whether the project is financially feasible."

Both cost estimates do not include the costs of off-site improvements, environmental remediation (if any), permit fees, final engineering and other so-called "soft costs."

In a news release issued Monday by Fly Sun Valley, an organization that works to promote better air service to the Wood River Valley, Friedman Memorial Airport Authority Chair Tom Bowman said the cost estimates are within expected ranges.

"A cursory review indicates really no surprises in these preliminary estimates," he said, "and the analysis will add important new information to the public record."

In April, Ricondo and Associates is expected to present to the airport authority a financing plan for a replacement airport, which will include possible sources and the timing of funding. Most of the funding for a replacement airport—75 percent in some scenarios for other new airports in the West—could come from federal sources. Ricondo and Associates' financial feasibility analysis will not be published until after the FAA's EIS is released in late May.

The engineering reports can be found at Click on "Announcements."

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