Business & Economy

Expansion of Burlington airport terminal on track for completion by fall 2022

Nic Longo, acting director of aviation for Burlington International Airport, discusses a terminal expansion project at the facility alongside Mayor Miro Weinberger and U.S. Sen Patrick Leahy. Photo by Jack Lyons/VTDigger

SOUTH BURLINGTON — A $14.5 million expansion of Burlington International Airport is on track for completion by next year, officials said.

The addition, which will extend the southern boundary of the current terminal, will house a new security checkpoint and queuing area, officials said. The expanded screening area will replace two checkpoints that now receive passengers on each floor of the terminal.

Organizers say the changes will decrease waiting times for passengers as they go through security.

The project broke ground last month, and has been billed as a game-changer for the state’s largest airport.

“This terminal integration project will make the airport here safer, easier to navigate and even more welcoming to visitors,” Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said at a press conference Thursday morning.

Relations between City Hall and the airport frayed earlier this year, after accusations of bullying and verbal abuse surfaced against Gene Richards, then the director of aviation. The longtime administrator ignored Weinberger’s requests to resign and was fired by Burlington city councilors last month.

Weinberger told reporters on Thursday there was no timeline for hiring a new director of aviation, and he has “a great deal of confidence in the leadership of the acting director, Nic Longo.

“We will do a search before appointing a permanent director, but we haven’t initiated that yet,” Weinberger said.

At the press conference, Weinberger joined Longo in thanking U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy for the veteran senator’s efforts to secure federal funding for the terminal project.

In remarks at the event, Leahy said his influence as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee helped persuade the Federal Aviation Administration to provide grant money for the project. 

“For a number of years, investing in a terminal for an airport the size of Burlington International was not a priority for the FAA,” Leahy said. But Burlington is distinctive among airports of its size, Leahy said, and it plays an important role in the region’s tourism industry.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy signs his name on a beam that will be used in Burlington International Airport’s terminal expansion project. Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger and Nic Longo, the airport’s acting director of aviation, look on. Photo by Jack Lyons/VTDigger

“As I tell some of these airlines, ‘If you come to Burlington, you’re going to fill up your planes,’ ” Leahy said. 

The pandemic, though, has reduced the number of travelers passing through the airport. Longo estimated that traffic levels are 60% to 75% of what they were in 2019 — though that was a historically busy year for the airport. 

Weinberger believes the crowds will return to the airport, calling it “an important pillar of the emotional recovery that our community needs.”

“So many of our neighbors have had to postpone critical life events over the last year and a half,” Weinberger said. “Every time we have a trip out of here that ends in a reunion, that represents an important and very much welcome return to normalcy.”

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Jack Lyons

About Jack

Burlington reporter Jack Lyons is a 2021 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. He majored in theology with a minor in journalism, ethics and democracy. Jack previously interned at the Boston Globe, the Berkshire Eagle and WDEV radio in Waterbury. He also freelanced for VTDigger while studying remotely during the pandemic in 2020.

Email: [email protected]

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