Passengers boarding their flights around lunchtime Thursday might not have noticed, but the staff at the Lafayette Regional Airport marked a significant point in construction.

Airport board members, construction crews and others signed the final beam for the new $90 million, 110,000-square-foot terminal before a crane placed it along the west side of the terminal.

That means the frame of the structure is in place, and the next step is putting up walls and sealing up the building that officials say will replace the current 62,000-square-foot terminal by September 2021, airport director Steve Picou said.

“When I first got on the commission about 12 years ago, we were just starting to talk about it and what we needed,” airport commission chair Paul Segura said. “It’s been a process. The need was we have a building that was built in the 1950s and renovated in the 1990s that functions for Lafayette and it easy to travel through, but it doesn’t meet the new requirements, security issues, TSA, things like that.”

Work began on the terminal just under a year ago, and crews are expected to install elevators and escalators now that the beams are in place. Work crews have also made progress on the rental car turnaround, which is anticipated to be complete early next year.

Local, state and federal money has been contributed to the airport upgrade, including funding generated by the airport. The Federal Aviation Administration contributed funds and state lawmakers allocated funds, as well.

Lafayette Parish voters approved a temporary 1-cent sales tax collected over eight months in 2015, generating nearly $34 million for the project. The tax expired after eight months as voters were promised.

Once complete, the new terminal will be an upgrade from the current three-gate terminal to one that will have five with a potential for seven, Segura said, which means more passenger traffic. The new terminal will also have two TSA security checkpoints instead of the one at the current terminal, which has been caused some passengers to miss flights while waiting in security line.

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The airport has reported a year-over-year increase in passengers flying out of Lafayette for 17 of the past 18 months, according to the airport's website.

“About four years ago when we started to raise money for this project, it was estimated by the department of transportation that our deplanements and enplanements would increase by 40 percent in just a few years,” Segura said. “Our numbers have been going up and up, particularly this year. This will provide us with a more modern facility, but it will also accommodate more travelers and hopefully more flights and more airlines.”

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Email Adam Daigle at adaigle@theadvocate.com.