The 12-month, $30-million repairs to a tornado-damaged Lambert-St. Louis International Airport are on time, and on budget, says the airport's director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge.
Contractors started removing boards and installing new windows on the front of the main terminal today. Most of the glass on the less-visible north side of the terminal has already been replaced.
Those repairs will be a big psychological boost, Hamm-Niebruegge says.
"Even on the north side, when we got the majority of the boards down, the terminal was a little more lighter," she said. "It's disheartening every day to drive by and see those boards. It's a reminder. But I think in a few weeks when we have all those boards away it will be a pretty exciting day for us."
Hamm-Niebruegge says architects and engineers had to spend some time deciding whether to keep the historic curtain wall that helped create the walls of glass in the main terminal. And each window has to be individually cut.
"They're not stock windows," she said. "I don't go to Home Depot and say I want that one and take it out. Once you give people a little bit of background and understanding of how much work had to be done, they understand it."
She says the decision to install a banner and signs explaining the tornado damage also cut down on the frustration expressed by passengers about the condition of the airport.
The heavily-damaged Concourse C remains closed, and Hamm-Niebruegge says repairs there won't be finished until the first week in April. Though the airport was able to quickly resume flights by moving airlines to other concourses, Hamm-Niebruegge says the relocation will have an economic impact.
"We had stronger restaurants and shops on the C Concourse because of its size than we're able to put on the D Concourse," she said. "The good news is we've got a fairly good burst in traffic right now, so we've seen increased revenues just from the growth of traffic, but we could have seen larger revenues we believe from the growth of concessions if we'd still be in the C."
Hamm-Niebruegge says insurance is covering the cost of repairs, and the airport's policy also reimburses for losses due to an interruption of business.