Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is bustling, but not with fliers. Construction crews keep the place hopping.
At a time when most travelers are staying home to ward off the worst of the coronavirus pandemic for Minnesota, work on Terminal 1 is taking off. If not for the current situation, the jobs would have been done bit by bit to reduce the disruption to the public.
Passenger traffic at MSP, which typically sees as many as 40,000 fliers a day, is down nearly 95% and parking is down 98%, said Bridget Rief, vice president for planning and development at the Metropolitan Airports Commission. That leaves a lot of room for demo crews, wall framers and tile layers in three areas of Terminal 1, or the Lindbergh Terminal: the ticketing lobby, Concourse G and baggage claim.
The new flexibility for construction crews “isn’t necessarily going to be a grand impact on our timeline; it’s more about reducing the impact on our customers,” Rief said. Work on Concourse G is still expected to wrap up in 2022, while the entire project will wind down in 2023.
“We usually require a lot of our work be done in the overnight hours,” Rief said. That sometimes means that workers can’t get in full shifts. Now they are biting off bigger chunks of the work during the day, and construction won’t significantly disrupt passengers as it did last summer. That’s when work temporarily limited screenings at the south checkpoint and lines for both security checkpoints snaked through an area squeezed by walled-off construction areas. The south checkpoint became fully operational again in October.
More recently, the skyway leading from the ticketing lobby to Terminal 1’s Gold parking ramp has reopened and the last of the new elevators serving the front of the terminal are humming, bringing the total to six. In the ticketing lobby, new terrazzo flooring is being laid in larger swaths than originally planned.
Down the long and skinny Concourse G, walls are being pushed out to create better flow and more seating at gates. New construction also includes second-floor space for a second Delta Sky Club. “We are able to allow the contractor to do a whole bunch of demo,” Rief said. Instead of doing the work piecemeal, construction crews are taking down walls and rebuilding at a time when the concourse is devoid of fliers.
On the lower level of the terminal, new, larger baggage carousels are replacing the old ones in the baggage claim area. Carousels 6 and 8 are being replaced simultaneously, instead of one at a time. The carousels are also being renumbered so they correspond to the door numbers outside in the pickup area.
Travelers who do head to MSP during this quiet travel period will encounter retail stores and restaurants that have closed or have reduced hours. AtYourGate, which is accessed via a free app, is still delivering food to gates.
Like many other businesses right now, the MAC is reassessing its work. Some less impactful projects, such as new carpet in some areas, are being put off. But the work that is underway in Terminal 1 will carry on.
“We want to honor our construction contracts. It’s good for the economy to do that,” Rief said. It’s good for fliers, too.