Port Authority begins major renovations at King, Rohlsen airports

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ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Port Authority has begun renovations at both the territory's airports: Cyril King Airport on St. Thomas and Henry Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix.

Together, the airports will be sporting about $8.2 million in renovations when the projects conclude.

The improvements at King Airport are expected to cost about $4 million and take about 10 months to complete, according to Port Authority Executive Director Carlton Dowe.

"We have entered our busy tourist season, and will make every effort to minimize impact on the day-to-day operations of the airport," Dowe said in a prepared statement issued Tuesday.

He also said that the Port Authority would put into place a few barriers to conceal the construction and make sure that the areas undergoing work will be isolated.

The Port Authority issued a contract to a local company, Custom Builders, which is expected to take 10 months to reconstruct the terminal's restrooms and improve the terminal's restaurant area and baggage claim. The project also will include upheaval and replacement of the flooring.

In terms of the baggage claim, one of the baggage belts will be separated into two belts, and another belt will be added. The additional belt will allow easier and quicker access for passengers collecting their items after arrival, according to the Port Authority. Additionally, automated signs will be installed at the baggage claim.

The baggage claim has not been remodeled since its construction in 1990, though the baggage belts were replaced in 2006. Still, the belts can only serve one major airline at a time, according to Port Authority spokeswoman Monifa Marrero.

New concession spaces and a new tourism welcome booth also are expected to better accommodate more people coming and going.

The restrooms also will be expanded, from two stalls for men and women to eight stalls for the women's restroom and five stalls and four urinals for the men's room.

The renovations on St. Thomas are expected to be covered by Passenger Facility Charges, which are additional fees charged to departing and connecting passengers at the airport, according to Marrero. The fees are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and are used to fund airport terminal projects, she said.

On St. Croix, the airport will get about $4.2 million in improvements.

A portion of Rohlsen Airport's terminal also is being rehabilitated. The project will include the removal of damaged concrete and resurfacing of the terminal apron just north of the terminal, according to Marrero.

Dowe said that this section of the apron primarily serves inter-island aircraft, such as Seaborne, Cape Air and LIAT. The work on the terminal apron began in the middle of last week, according to Marrero, and it is expected to be completed in six months.

The Port Authority hired local company V.I. Paving for the project, which is funded by a Federal Aviation Administration Airport Improvement Projects Grant. The aviation administration pays 90 percent of the cost, and the Port Authority will pay the remainder.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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