By Jane Calderwood
While in Maine last week, I went to visit Paul Bradbury, Director of the Portland International Jetport (PWM). Having worked closely with PWM in the mid-90s during their last major expansion project (while working for Maine Senator Olympia Snowe), I couldn’t resist the opportunity to get a first hand look at the $75 million expansion effort that is well underway. Paul reminded me that in the 15 years since the last expansion, Portland’s usage has gone up more than 60 percent!
The terminal expansion (137,000 square feet) will nearly double the size of the existing building, provide three new gates and allow them to double the number of security lines (from 4 to 8). The new gates are needed in order for Portland to be able to attract new carriers, so they can continue to provide a variety of schedule and fare options to the 1.8 million passengers who pass through the jetport annually. The roadway to the terminal is being reconfigured and when complete will provide separate approaches to the terminal for arriving and departing passengers. Finally, the expansion will give Bradbury the room to install an inline baggage handling system, which was purchased using the $9.2 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding they received from the Department of Homeland Security.
Construction is also underway on a $3 million geothermal project that is estimated to reduce oil consumption at PWM by more than 100,000 gallons per year, which in turn will reduce energy costs by an estimated 80 percent. The Federal Aviation Administration provided $2.5 million through a Voluntary Airport Low Emissions (VALE) grant for the project. Once completed, 500 gallons of fluid per minute will circulate through 11 miles of plastic tubing to heat and cool the new terminal addition. The project is expected to pay for itself within three years through energy savings.
As if there weren’t enough hardhats to be seen at PWM, they are also in the process of completing work on a de-icing fluid recapture facility which will recycle used aircraft deicing fluid. The funding for this project, $2.138 million, also came from the stimulus bill.
Bradbury estimates that directly and indirectly the jetport supports more than 11,500 jobs and contributes $860 million to the regional economy. The expanded terminal, the cost conscious new energy source and the environmentally friendly deicing facility should serve as a reminder to Southern Maine that the Portland International Jetport takes it role as a key economic driver seriously.