After a disastrous spring break at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport — one marked by long lines at security and disgruntled customers in Terminal 1 — more construction and disruption are on tap.
This week, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), which operates the airport, will begin work on a $200 million overhaul at Terminal 1 that involves expanding the ticket and baggage claim areas, and replacing escalators and elevators.
The idea is to make the terminal, which dates to the early 1960s, brighter, roomier and more efficient, according to MAC officials. The renovation will take five years and occur in phases.
Last spring, a new $17 million, 10-lane security checkpoint opened on the northern end of the terminal, the airport’s biggest and busiest. But the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) failed to fully staff the checkpoint during the spring travel rush, causing all sorts of headaches. That crisis appears to have subsided, at least for now. (A Minneapolis man sued TSA last week, claiming long lines caused him to miss his flight, costing him more than $500.)
The first phase of the new Terminal 1 work will last through December and will affect customers using Level T — the busy subterranean area used by those who park at the terminal, use light rail or public transportation, take a shuttle or taxi, or rent a car.
The initial work involves installing utilities needed for new escalators and elevators. Activity will ramp up in October when workers begin to dismantle some of the escalators and elevators connecting four levels, and reconstructing the floor where they once operated. New central banks of elevators and escalators will be installed on both ends of the building at the front of the terminal to “improve vertical circulation and reduce congestion.”
Construction on the north end of the building will last about 18 months. The glass wall at the front of the terminal will be expanded toward the road by 16 feet, increasing the square footage in both the arrival and departure areas.
Once the north end is completed (which is the area closest to St. Paul), work will begin on the southern side.
Construction at the ticketing and baggage claim areas also involves upgrading flooring, ticket kiosks and counters, baggage claim carousels, restrooms and dining areas. There are plans to install a “large, iconic art piece,” as well.
Brian Ryks, the MAC’s executive director, said in a statement that the new design will support increased use of technology to process travelers and reduce congestion in the ticket lobby.
The project cost will be funded by federal airport improvement grants and airport revenue bonds.
All of this will occur as construction continues on 50 new restaurants and shops in the secure area of Terminal 1, as well as work on a new 5,000-space parking ramp. Then there’s the $115 million InterContinental Hotel that will be connected to Terminal 1 by skyway — ground will be broken for that next month. And there are four new gates under construction at Terminal 2.
MAC officials already advise passengers to arrive two hours ahead of boarding time for their domestic trip. Even with all the construction, they’re not changing that recommendation.
MAC spokeswoman Amanda Greene Guentzel acknowledged that arriving and departing at Terminal 1 should be “a little bit different” in the months ahead. In that vein, airport ambassadors and new signs will be in place to direct befuddled travelers.