Lafayette Regional Airport commissioners next week will decide whether to endorse a relatively new method of constructing public projects for a new $90 million passenger terminal.
Called “construction manager at risk,” or CMAR, the approach could lead to the terminal being completed by 2019 instead of 2020 or later, project consultant Walt Adams said at a special meeting Tuesday.
Adams has endorsed the CMAR method since he was hired earlier this year to give commissioners guidance as they act on a complicated project.
The construction method brings the construction company in at the beginning of a project, during the design phase. Adams said that allows projects to be completed more quickly, in part because a builder is able to start constructing some parts of the terminal before the design is completed.
He said CMAR could shave a year off the Lafayette terminal’s construction, from five years to four.
Design of the terminal will begin at the end of 2015 or beginning of 2016. Between now and then, the airport commission will appoint a panel of Lafayette-area professionals to a committee. The committee will winnow through the proposals for a recommendation to the commission on who should be awarded the project.
“What we looked at was four to five years” from design to completion, Commissioner Paul Guilbeau said Tuesday.
Guilbeau said he and other backers of a new terminal used the four-to-five-year estimates at public meetings leading to a December tax election, when Lafayette Parish voters approved an eight-month parishwide 1-cent sales tax. The tax started being collected April 1 and will be levied on taxable goods and services until Nov. 30. The $35 million expected to be generated by the tax will help finance construction of an enhanced terminal, more parking and other improvements.
The CMAR approach also has been favored by Airport Commission Chairman Matt Cruse, who was not at the meeting Tuesday.
At a March meeting of commissioners, it looked like the project would be carried out using the CMAR method. But commissioners at an April 8 meeting asked Adams for more details, which were presented Tuesday.
Commissioner Tim Skinner, who was the most vocal commissioner at the April meeting questioning if CMAR was Lafayette’s best bet, said late Tuesday that he still had reservations.
“So I’m going to lean heavily on Steven Picou to guide us in the right direction,” Skinner said.
Picou, who started the job as Lafayette’s airport director in February, said he would make a recommendation at the commission’s May 13 meeting.
Adams prepared a booklet that listed the advantages of the traditional method of building public projects — design-bid-build — and CMAR, the two routes being seriously considered.
Adams said the advantages to the traditional design-bid-build included familiarity among contractors, its simplicity and its fixed price. He said, however, that the fixed price can lead to later disputes and project delays, and can ultimately lead to higher finished costs.
Besides taking less time to complete, the advantages with CMAR, he said, include more teamwork between the design firm and builder, and “continuous budget control.”
Adams conceded CMAR may be more expensive to carry out because there are fewer bidders, and that costs could escalate.
Adams also offered examples of other airport projects that have been built using the approach: a $120 million terminal project at San Antonio International Airport, a $200 million terminal renovation at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and a $31 million terminal expansion at Key West International Airport.
Lafayette’s new $90 million airport terminal will be financed by the tax passed in December, by state and federal grants, and by borrowing money through the sale of bonds.
Once complete, the terminal will feature a five-gate concourse with room to add two more passenger gates. It now has three gates.
Passengers also will have an expanded parking lot in front of the terminal, places to purchase and eat food on both sides of the security gates and an advanced baggage handling system.
Editor’s note: This article was changed on Saturday, May 9, to reflect that CMAR is a method of carrying out the project’s construction.