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Wind delays topping off at airport $30 million terminal expected to open in July at Niagara Falls International

Strong winds Tuesday afternoon prevented the topmost beam from being hoisted into place on the new terminal at Niagara Falls International Airport in a traditional topping-off ceremony, but won't stop the $30 million terminal from opening in July.

The final beam is expected to be put in place today to top off the 46-foot-high terminal.

"The project has reached its maximum height," said Edward H. Ihde, project manager and senior vice president of the Walter S. Johnson Building Co. of Niagara Falls, the general contractor.

The Niagara Falls company's projects include the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel and the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Niagara Falls and the Burchfield-Penney Art Center in Buffalo, which will open Nov. 22.

In a ceremony attended by local dignitaries, Henry M. Sloma, vice chairman of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which owns the airport, praised the general contractor for "turning a dream into a reality."

"This is another milestone in the rejuvenization of the Niagara Frontier," Sloma said. "We look forward to next July when we will be cutting the ribbon."

The NFTA also was represented at the ceremony by commissioner James J. Eagan, and Vincent Crehan, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

The 63,000-square-foot terminal -- more than three times the size of the current structure -- was designed by Stantec of British Columbia, Canada, a leading international architectural firm. An eye-catching feature is the flowing shape of the roof, intended to symbolize the rapids of the Niagara River. The uniquely-curved design won the 2008 North American Tekla Steel Structures Award for Municipal Buildings.
"This is truly a signature building," said William L. Ross, chairman of the Niagara County Legislature. "For years this is what we wanted and now we have it."

The terminal is being built off Niagara Falls Boulevard, between the old terminal and Calspan Corp.'s flight research center.

Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, D-Lewiston, thanked the construction workers "for putting their lives on the line."

There has been one incident since construction began in February. Last month, a crane oiler was getting ready to leave for the night when a 650-ton crane toppled over. The worker was taken to the hospital with chest pains and later released. No one was injured in the incident and no damage was done to the terminal.

DelMonte said the new terminal is bound to generate more air traffic at the airport.

"We're looking at having a resurgence here," she said.

The first signs of new life at the long underused airport began a year ago with nonstop flights between Niagara Falls and Myrtle Beach, S.C., by Myrtle Beach Direct Air.

Beginning with two flights a week, the service was increased to three flights a week. Last December, Myrtle Beach Direct added three snowbird flights a week to Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla.

Starting Dec. 5, the newly named DirectAir will provide two flights a week to Myrtle Beach -- on Monday and Friday -- and inaugurate two flights a week to Punta Gorda, Fla., in the Fort Myers area, for a total of four flights a week.

Tuesday's ceremony of raising the top beam means the end is in sight for the "raising gang," the workers who actually set the iron in place, Ihde said.

"The ironworkers observe the topping out custom because they are the first workers to reach the top of the structure," Ihde said. "The impulse to commemorate the achievement is similar to that of mountain climbers."
The final beam was signed by the visiting dignitaries and a score of ironworkers who belong to Niagara Falls Local 9 of the 112-year-old International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Ironworkers.
Plaques were presented to four people for their work on the project: Ahkil Hiranya, a structural engineer with Ravi Engineering of Rochester; Jason Steel, a project engineer with JPW Contracting, a subcontractor from Syracuse; John Wozniczka, an engineer and president of JPW Contracting; and Kurt Cook, site foreman of subcontractor Hohl Industrial Services of the Town of Tonawanda.


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