With the number of travelers using The Eastern Iowa Airport setting new records each month, plans are in the works to add a temporary jet boarding bridge on the lower concourse to relieve congestion during peak periods.
Airport Director Tim Bradshaw told the Cedar Rapids Airport Commission on Monday that an existing boarding bridge being replaced by a new unit will be retrofitted to provide a seventh jet bridge for the passenger terminal.
"With six boarding bridges, five airlines and over 30 daily departures, we are running into some real capacity restraints," Bradshaw said. "When we are replacing five of the boarding bridges, we will have that boarding bridge as a backup when one of them is down.
"It also will alleviate some of the congestion problems that we are having right now."
Bradshaw said the airport's consulting engineers have been tasked with developing a ramp inside the ground level B concourse to eliminate the steep angle required for the jet bridge to serve larger aircraft flown by Allegiant Air and Frontier Airlines.
"We need to make sure we have the elevation and incline required to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act," Bradshaw said. "I've asked our engineers to put this on the fast track to get this up and running as soon as possible. We are hoping to have it completed in April."
Bradshaw said the temporary boarding bridge ultimately will be replaced with permanent units.
"In 2017, we are looking to rebuild the B concourse and there will be two jet bridges added at that time," he said. "Depending on the type of boarding bridge that we use as a temporary jet bridge, we may also be able to reuse it when we redo the B concourse."
Bradshaw was not able to provide a cost estimate for the temporary jet bridge. He said the airport will fund the project from existing revenues set aside for improvements.
The airport is spending $3.3 million to replace the boarding bridges, with the first replacement scheduled for next month and the second in May. The existing jet bridges have been in service for 29 years.
The airport served 83,664 passengers in January, topping the previous record of 81,690 passengers in January 2007. Heather Wilson, airport director of marketing, said the record month came despite the number of weather-related flight cancellations in Chicago and other destinations.
While some 80,000 flights were cancelled by the nation's airlines, Wilson said The Eastern Iowa Airport was able to escape the brunt of the cancellations because other destinations like Denver and Dallas were still able to accommodate travelers.
Bradshaw and Wilson said the airlines serving Cedar Rapids have reduced the number of flights, eliminating capacity to fly full airplanes. That has led to travelers finding flights have been overbooked and forcing them to fly from Chicago, Dallas and other destinations to Des Moines or the Quad Cities.The airlines determine the number of flights, seats and air fares. Wilson said the airport continues to press for more flights and seats.