Lafayette Regional Airport commissioners this week are conducting the final phase of choosing which national firms will design and build the new $90 million passenger terminal and another $60 million in additional airport work over the next few years.
The Board of Commissioners is meeting with three architecture-design firms, with each taking a two-hour morning session Monday through Wednesday. And for two hours each afternoon on those days, the board is meeting with finalist program management/construction management companies.
Two of the companies, one concentrating on architecture and the other a management firm, will be chosen by commissioners and will form a team. Included on that team will be smaller engineering and design firms, a few of them with local origins.
Daniel Elsea, deputy director for the airport, said commissioners will turn in score sheets based on this week’s sessions, then announce the final two at a special meeting April 6 or sooner.
The process of narrowing the number of companies that expressed interest in Lafayette’s airport started in January after advertising the work nationally in 2015.
“It’s a lot of work administratively,” Elsea said. “But we don’t build a new terminal every day.”
On Monday morning, the commissioners met with RS&H, a national firm based in Jacksonville, Florida, seeking the architect-design work. That afternoon, all seven commissioners heard from Heery, an Atlanta company seeking the management part of the project.
On Tuesday morning, it will be Kansas City-based HNTB before the commissioners. On Tuesday afternoon, it’ll be PSA Constructors, whose headquarters is in Dallas. On Wednesday, it’s San Francisco-based Gensler in the morning and Jackson, Mississippi-based Neel-Schaffer the last that afternoon.
All of the firms have experience in big airport projects.
A glimpse at what a team will look like came Monday afternoon, when Heery engineer Robert Chomiak introduced five other engineering firms that would work with him if Heery were awarded the management section of the project. Two of those firms are disadvantaged business enterprises based in New Orleans: Royal Engineering and Metro-Source LLC. Sellers & Associates, based in Lafayette, would pick up much of the engineering work with Heery.
Lafayette Parish residents in late 2014 approved a temporary 1-cent sales tax that was levied April 1 to Nov. 30, 2015. The tax brought in $32.6 million, which will be combined with a Louisiana capital outlay allocation, federal grants and borrowed money to pay for the $90 million terminal. The project includes expanded parking and other improvements.
Construction is expected to start in 2017.
The plan has been on the drawing board for years. In pitching the tax to voters in 2014, the backers of a new terminal said Lafayette’s current facility was outdated and too small for commercial passengers now, and would become quite cramped as passenger numbers grew.
Kam Movassaghi, a former state official and part of an airport committee that narrowed the current candidate firms to six, said Monday the commission and airport Director Steven Picou and his staff are proceeding at a gallop.
“As far as government projects, this is the speed of light,” said Movassaghi, who headed up the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development from 1998 until 2004 under then-Gov. Mike Foster.
“This has been a very organized process,” Movassaghi said.