With skin in the game through a local tax, Lafayette airport is in good position for federal funds for terminal expansion _lowres

Rendering provided by Sides & Associates -- Rendering of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport

Lafayette Regional Airport commissioners on Tuesday sharpened their focus on which federal government grants to target to help pay for a $90 million commercial terminal expansion.

Bobbi Hess, a consultant with Technical Resource Group, told the commission’s Terminal Committee that now is the time to gather data for a 2016 grant application to the federal Department of Transportation.

Hess said chances of receiving the DOT grant — specifically a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grant — are enhanced because of matching local money that will show DOT that Lafayette Parish has some skin in the game.

Last year, Lafayette Parish voters approved a 1-cent sales tax to be levied over eight months this year — April 1 to Nov. 30 — that by the end of 2015 should total $30 million to $35 million.

According to figures provided by the Lafayette Parish School Board, which collects sales taxes in the parish, the 1 percent tax generated a little over $4 million in both April and May.

Hess said DOT officials who review and approve TIGER grant applications give more consideration to projects that have local contributions like a dedicated sales tax.

“Showing that the community supports the project, that is very important,” she said.

Hess told commissioners there also could be available grant money from the U.S. Economic Development Administration if additional jobs are created for vendors and other employers who expand their services in the new terminal.

The Lafayette Regional Airport’s terminal project entails building a bigger terminal with five commercial boarding gates instead of the current three. The expanded terminal also will allow the future addition of two more gates. Also planned is a bigger parking lot with expanded, faster roads into and out of the airport.

This summer, the commission sent out requests for qualifications for architectural and engineering firms interested in the project.

Airport Director Steve Picou said Tuesday that in August 2016, the FedEx and UPS facilities will be moved from their current location to acreage nearer U.S. 90 south of the PHI Helicopter assembly plant.

“When you see FedEx and UPS moving, it is the launch point for the beginning of the terminal project,” Picou said.

Construction on the new terminal should begin in 2017, he said.