June 19, 2008

Airport Plants New Look on Plaza

By Sheila Ellis, The Roanoke Times, Va.

Jun. 19--Patrons of Roanoke Regional Airport may have noticed some changes while parking and loading in recent weeks.

The airport on May 19 began a plaza security upgrade and renovation, during which large planters will be added to create an obstacle in front of the terminal.

While ripping up the plaza to install the planters, construction crews will add outdoor seating and lighting.

"The series of stone planters play a dual role: one, to look nice; and second to protect the building," said Jacqueline Shuck, executive director of the airport.

The $420,000 project is expected to be completed in October.

In addition to increasing people's comfort, the project will improve functionality, too, said Amanda DeHaven, marketing and communication coordinator for the airport.

"When you pull your luggage across the sidewalk, it's not going to be going over bumps and cracks anymore," she said.

Kim Hubbard of Roanoke said Wednesday morning that the construction is a bit inconvenient for those picking up passengers, but she appreciates the added safety benefit the project will provide.

"Anything to make you feel safer is good -- these days you never feel 100 percent safe anymore when it comes to traveling," she said.

The project is being financed with state aviation entitlement grant funds and airport capital funds and was not federally mandated, DeHaven said.

During construction, two traffic lanes, including portions of the passenger loading and unloading areas, will be closed in front of the terminal.

A half-hour of free parking will be available in the short-term lot for people who are dropping off or picking up passengers, or who need to load or unload baggage.

The roads approaching the front of the terminal have signs advising people to use the short-term lot. Airport law enforcement officers are directing traffic.

Officials recommend that people try to avoid navigating the construction area to reduce congestion in front of the terminal, DeHaven said.

The project was recommended in a security assessment the airport performed in 2004. The project is just one of many changes the airport has made following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, DeHaven said.

"Since [Sept. 11, 2001,] airports have been making changes to how they do business," she said.

"The wall is creating a barrier to prevent a vehicle from coming into the terminal. There is so much glass in the front area -- we thought it would be a good idea to have some type of barrier there for protection."


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