Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) With demolition of the old passenger terminal nearly complete and Phase 2 construction set to begin, Missoula Montana Airport plans to jump ahead and seek bids for Phase 3.

If the price is right, the airport could combine the last two phases of construction into a single project, thus avoiding disruptions down the road.

“The thinking is that if we apply for another grant, we want to be shovel ready,” said airport director Brian Ellestad. “We'd rather not have (the contractor) come back and remobilize three years from now and have that disruption. We'll find a way to fund it now and move right into Phase 3.”

Phase 1 of the terminal project, or the south concourse, opened for service this year, capping three years of construction. It includes five boarding gates and a number of efficiencies and amenities not included in the old terminal, along with added room for more passengers.

Phase 2 includes removal of what's left of the old terminal. Once construction is finished, it will include two additional jet bridges, two ground boarding gates, baggage claim and car rental. Phase 3 would extend that project by adding a third jet bridge.

“Phase 3 is stretching that so we can get that third jet bridge and a much closer walk for ground boards,” Ellestad said. “If we don't do Phase 3, it's a pretty lengthy walk. Phase 3 gets us where we want with eight (aircraft) parking spots.”

An old logo from Northwest Airlines was found during deconstruction.
An old logo from Northwest Airlines was found during deconstruction.

Demolition of the old terminal has been something of a walk through Missoula's past aviation history. The terminal was added on to in phases over the course of 70 years.

“The peel back has been more or less by the decade,” said deputy airport director Tim Damrow. “I think we're more or less in the 80s now.”

Deconstruction already has revealed old stonework, brick and entrances long-since covered. Most recently, crews revealed the logo of Northwest Airlines.

The carrier merged with Delta Airlines in 2008, but it once served Missoula long before that, according to a route map. Getting from one location to another required a number of stops.

“Back in the day, you could travel to Seattle to Minneapolis via Spokane and Missoula before heading down to Butte, Bozeman and Billings, then stopping at Bismark and arriving at Minneapolis probably a week later,” said deputy airport director Tim Damrow.