The Virgin Islands Port Authority will start spending the $27 million received last year as a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce-Economic Development Administration to begin construction on the Cyril E. King and Henry E. Rohlsen airports.
Both projects consist of four phases, each of which can take anywhere from 18 to 24 months to complete, VIPA Assistant Executive Director and Director of Engineering Damian Cartwright told the members of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Regulations and Agriculture at a hearing Friday.
Construction is expected to begin in April at both terminals and Cartwright said it is estimated the last construction phases will be completed in six to eight years.
During the hearing Cartwright laid out the many improvements that travelers could look forward to in the coming years as construction begins.
The first phase of the Cyril E. King Airport will cost VIPA $20 million, funded entirely through the grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The money will be used for a parking and transportation center that will provide nearly 700 parking spots, a designated location for ground transportation and another location allocated solely for rental cars.
Cartwright said the next three construction phases will be all about redesign, expansion and modernization.
The interior of the terminal will be revamped to make efficient use of the two floors, new lounges and concession areas that will be created to provide space for eateries and retailers, tropical landscaping will be put in, and VIPA plans on the installation of jet bridges.
Cartwright said the entire Cyril E. King Airport project is estimated to cost around $250 million. He added VIPA is still trying to solidify funding for phases two through four.
The expansion of the general aviation area for private jets at the Cyril E. King Airport is due to be completed in the first quarter of 2020 and Cartwright said it will be the largest “fixed-base operator” in the Caribbean.
“VIPA has realized a growth in private jets visits to St. Thomas. By accommodating these high-end guests, we can anticipate additional revenues from fuel flow, other aviation fees and a benefit to the territory from overnight visits,” Cartwright’s presentation detailed.
Work will begin on the first construction phase of the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport simultaneously with the first phase being carried out at the Cyril E. King Airport.
The first phase for St. Croix’s airport will consist of enclosing some 5,500 square feet to increase seating in the lounge said Cartwright. VIPA’s plan is to restore the existing lounge space and restrooms, provide additional concession space and upgrade facilities to have air-conditioned areas, he said.
VIPA estimates the first construction phase of Henry E. Rohlsen Airport will cost $7.3 million, again funded entirely via the 2019 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Cartwright said the entire project will cost an estimated $140 million. The funds will be utilized to create a second level for jet bridges, additional holding capacity, landscaping, concessions and retail space, baggage handling in the terminal and the expansion of the terminal will allow for full advantage of its 10,000-foot runway.
Senators received the news enthusiastically, prompting Cartwright to say he was “excited that there is this level of interest and support to push this agenda … this is dear to me.”
There was no discussion on how – if at all – the construction schedule would be affected by the novel coronavirus outbreak and efforts to curtail it through “social distancing.”