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The baggage claim area at Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport waits for deplaning passengers. The area will be modernizing its look in coming months, after the airport’s governing board awarded a construction contract that will install a carousel system. The work is the first of a series of upgrades planned for the terminal.

Contractors are on site, ready to launch the newest phase of the terminal renovation project at Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport.

That $3.8 million project, awarded to Jet Commercial Construction in 2019, will modernize the baggage claim area, giving the airport an indoor carousel system typical at other airports. It also will create a temporary security holding area for passengers who have been screened but not yet boarded aircraft, as well as upgrades in the main portion of the terminal.

Airport officials had been waiting for the final piece of the puzzle — discretionary federal funding — to cover the cost of the work (which was approved late last year), but also wanted to delay the start of construction until after the Christmas holidays. Those details have been handled and contractors already are on site putting up the screening and fencing that will mark the project for the next two years, said Airport Director Barbara McNally.

A major issue in that project is keeping passengers away from construction areas while creating a work space that meets Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security requirements for the terminal and other airport spaces.

McNally said the contractor will erect new 10-foot-tall fencing around what had been the south parking lot used by airport employees to create a staging area. McNally said that was the option the airport and contractor chose so the work site could meet TSA security requirements. Their other option was to “badge” every employee working on the construction project, a security measure that means a background check for could be hundreds of construction employees over the next two years. The fencing has met with TSA approval, McNally said.

That wasn’t the only workspace issue.

McNally said the contractor also must erect panels to shield the south end of the terminal (where the baggage claim area is) from the public while work is under way.

Airport officials have been negotiating with American Eagle (the airport’s carrier) on space that will be designated in the ticket area on the north end of the building as a baggage claim area until the new facility is operational.

McNally said American Eagle is relocating its baggage area (where checked luggage is deposited) and the airport will use the old ASA/Delta ticket counter. That area has a conveyor belt for what had been checked luggage by ASA passengers. McNally said the belt will be reversed to allow luggage unloaded from aircraft to be delivered inside.

“It’s an easier location to keep people out of the (construction) area,” McNally said.

Airport maintenance people also made minor changes in the entrance of the airport’s restaurant, so that facility will continue to operate without problems.

The renovations are part of a three-stage renovation that is intended to modernize the terminal.

This first stage will replace what now is a series of garage doors that baggage handlers raise to place checked bags on small inside ramps. McNally has said the system isn’t efficient because passengers must cluster in the same small area to wait for and retrieve their checked bags, and because it opens the south end of the terminal to outdoors.

The new system will be a flat conveyor system that can be loaded on the outside from a covered baggage cart area, then opened inside for passenger retrieval.

The contractor also will built out the back end of the terminal to provide space for a temporary secured passenger holding area. This temporary site will be converted to other use when a new secured passenger holding area is built adjacent to the existing holding area, work that will be done in the next renovation phase.

The work also will modernize the main part of the terminal where non-passengers and others wait, to include removal of every other support pillar (the roof also will be reinforced) to provide more open space.

Future phases will add a new secured passenger holding area twice as large as the existing one, with separate corridors for loading and unloading passengers; a larger TSA security screening area; a covered bridge linking the holding area to aircraft; renovated carrier, ticketing and tenant areas; and upgrades to the front of the terminal.

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