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Contractor picked for Falls air terminal Johnson firm wins with bid of $26.7 million

The Walter S. Johnson Building Co. Inc. of Niagara Falls has been picked to build the new terminal at Niagara Falls International Airport at a price slightly under estimates.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority's Aviation Committee gave support to the firm's $26.7 million bid on Tuesday, setting the stage for what is expected to be unanimous approval by authority's executive board on Monday.

"Their bid reflects a thorough review of the project specifications and competitive estimates. We have every confidence in this company to deliver a beautiful and functional terminal for the Niagara Falls airport," said NFTA Executive Director Lawrence Meckler.

The NFTA had predicted the winning bid would come in at around $28 million.

LaChase Construction Services LLC of Rochester submitted a bid of $30.9 million, and Sicoli & Massaro Inc. of Niagara Falls bid $32.4 million.

"The message today is that this is a 'go' project. Nothing stands in the way of its construction," Meckler said.

Construction will start next spring and the terminal is slated to debut in July 2009.

The Aviation Committee also selected DiDonato Associates Engineering and Architecture P.C. of Buffalo to provide construction-monitoring services. That firm will be paid a fee not to exceed $1.2 million.

Cannon Design of Grand Island and Buffalo's Watts Architecture & Engineering P.C. will act as DiDonato's sub-consultants.

The NFTA has identified $14.4 million in funds to pay for the two-level, 69,430-square-foot terminal, and is seeking additional funds from the state and the federal Transportation Security Administration to fill the $12.3 million gap.

To date, the agency has lined: up $7.5 million from a share of Seneca Niagara Casino revenues; $2 million from the Niagara Economic Development Fund; $1.9 million in state aid; $1 million from the City of Niagara Falls, and $320,000 from the Federal Transit Administration.

The NFTA self-funded $1.4 million to cover architectural fees.

The project is also aided by $2.5 million in federal transportation funds to pay for runway apron and access road improvements, which are tied to, but not part of the terminal upgrade.

The NFTA board previously preapproved a bond sale to cover interim costs until permanent funds are secured.

The terminal, designed by Stantec Consulting, a Canadian architecture firm which has a Buffalo office, will offer eight ticket counter stations, two gates, and facilities to process international passengers. The terminal, which is three times as large as the current terminal, will be built to accommodate planes as large as Boeing 747s.

The water-themed terminal was supposed to include a dramatic, two-story water feature that would pass over the heads of departing passengers, then cascade down to greet those entering the arrival hall. That major design element has been taken out of the project to reduce costs.

In the planning stages since 2004, the goal of the project is to generate domestic and international service via scheduled and charter airlines where little passenger flight activity has taken place for over a decade.

The promise of a new, state-of-the-art terminal helped the NFTA sign Myrtle Beach Direct Air, which is offering flights to South Carolina and Florida.

The NFTA is also actively courting Kenny Tours, a Maryland company that wants to book tours to and from Ireland via the Niagara Falls airport. If successful those trips could start arriving next May using the existing terminal.


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