Work is expected to resume soon on an expanded passenger holding area and a new boarding bridge at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity.
The Westmoreland County Airport Authority on Tuesday approved a $90,000 change order for the boarding bridge, the enclosed structure that passengers use to walk from the gate to their airplane.
The added cost will cover changing the material for the switchback portion of the bridge from steel to aluminum and increasing the size of the concrete foundation, said Nicholas Barber, senior engineering manager for GAI Consultants.
The aluminum will help with corrosion resistance, Barber said.
The foundation change was necessary because the original bid package had only weight load estimates, he said. The new weight load numbers, which are higher than anticipated, are based on the bridge manufacturer selected by the general contractor, Arcon Contracting of New Kensington, he said.
The airport’s existing bridge is more than a decade old and was designed for use with Boeing 737 airplanes. The new, longer bridge will provide a more gradual slope for reaching the larger Airbus planes Spirit Airlines uses for its flights to Myrtle Beach, S.C., and destinations in Florida, authority officials have said.
Having a second bridge will make it more convenient for passengers when two Spirit flights arrive at the airport in close proximity.
“This will enhance our capacity to serve aircraft the size of Spirit,” said authority Executive Director Gabe Monzo.
The $1.3 million project also involves expanding the passenger waiting area in the main airport terminal. Work was put on hold for the winter but is expected to resume soon and to be completed later this spring, Barber said.
The change order is contingent on approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. Most of the funding for the project is coming from the FAA, Monzo said.
Also Tuesday, Monzo told authority members that the Unity airport received a “very favorable report” from the FAA following its annual inspection in February.
“Safety is the essence of what we do here. … We don’t take anything for granted when it comes to safety,” he said. “The (FAA) inspector even commented, ‘I would be happy to have my wife or daughter fly out of this field.’ ”
The Rostraver Airport is inspected annually by the PennDOT Bureau of Aviation.