Feds Put V.I. at Top of List for Redevelopment of Rohlsen Airport

Artist's conception of the expanded, renovated Henry E. Rohlsen International Airport on St. Croix.
Artist’s conception of the expanded, renovated Henry E. Rohlsen International Airport on St. Croix.

A brand new pot of federal money will pay 100 percent of the costs for the redevelopment of the Henry E. Rohlsen International Airport on St. Croix, Virgin Islands Port Authority Executive Director David Mapp announced Tuesday.

“We were advised that the Virgin Islands are at the very top of the list for approval,” he said.

Mapp spoke to an audience Tuesday in the Terminal Cruise Lounge at the airport.

“The Federal government has advised VIPA that there has been an appropriation made for disaster areas that were affected by the hurricanes Irma and Maria – Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the V.I. are on the list.”

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The appropriation totals $1 billion, Mapp said, and the airport plans are estimated to cost $130 million.

Designs for the redeveloped Rohlsen include a 'great room' at the center of the airport.
Designs for the redeveloped Rohlsen include a ‘great room’ at the center of the airport.

Senior consultant Mohsen Mohammadi and lead architect Craig Hansen of American Infrastructure Development, Inc. were present to speak to the audience about terminal expansion and modernization.

“I am working closely with the Port Authority developing the vision,” Hansen said. “It’s an exciting opportunity for the funding that is available and for the great ideas that VIPA is bringing forward to completely revitalize the entire terminal.”

Plans were on view at the entrance of the Terminal Lounge and Hansen worked through each one in a Power Point presentation to explain the process of the modernization, starting with the terminal in its existing condition.

“We evaluated the terminal over the past couple of years and have been looking at issues that face the terminal in terms of its daily operations,” he said.

In response to a question from the audience, Mapp said construction could begin soon, but it won’t be a quick project.

“We are ready to start as soon as the money is in our hands. It is a 10-year horizon. We will continue operations as we work on the expansion,” Mapp said.

The plans are to improve the TSA to modern standards, with 50 percent more space and expanded to three lines. The border inspection process will move more quickly and effectively, Hansen said.

Loading bridges are designed to enhance passenger accessibility getting on and off the aircraft. Passengers will arrive on level two and go down to level one by escalator to the baggage carousel Hansen said.

Hansen said the remodeling plans anticipate a 50 percent increase in airport traffic.

Vaulted ceilings, glass windows to bring in natural light, terrazzo floors, and a great room to enter at the center of the terminal are some of the highlights of the design team’s cosmetic additions.

An entrepreneur asked about business opportunities at the concessions and the kiosks. Hansen answered that underutilized counters would be more efficient to accommodate more vendors while increasing retail space. An observation deck would allow passengers to relax in a similar atmosphere as an Admiral Club or VIP Lounge at a cost to the passenger, Mapp added.

Other factors in the plan that Mapp pointed to include:

– Relocation of the adjacent landfill.

– Lighted pictures at the entrance of the airport featuring not only Tim Duncan, but other V.I. sports heroes.

– The airport will be operated by solar energy.

– Pay gates will be relocated to ease of traffic.

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