Lawton Fort Sill Regional Airport temporary baggage claim area

Newly arrived soldiers to Fort Sill wait for their baggage at Lawton Fort Sill Regional Airport Wednesday.

Contractors have the equipment needed to complete installation of the new carousel baggage handling system at Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport.

Completion, projected for early August, comes just before airport officials plan to launch the next phase of their modernization project.

Jet Commercial Construction began work in early 2020 on a $3.8 million construction project that is part of a multi-phase renovation/modernization of the airport’s terminal. This project included three major components, including installation of a carousel style baggage claim system common at most airports. That system will replace what has been a ramp system that opened directly to the outside, making climate control in the south end of the terminal difficult.

It is this portion of the project that has been delaying completion of the entire phase, and officials indicated earlier this summer Jet Commercial Construction was facing the same problems contractors across the nation were: longer-than-normal waiting periods for materials and supplies because of backlogs created when production companies shut down in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Airport Director Barbara McNally said Jet Commercial Construction now has the conveyor belt needed for the carousel system, the missing piece of equipment holding up completion.

“It’s a two-week process,” McNally said of the installation, adding the contractor anticipates completion in time to allow final inspection of the project July 28-29.

With the successful completion of that inspection, the carousel system is expected to be in operation in early August.

This phase also included work in the general public area and construction of a temporary secured passenger holding area, where passengers who have been through TSA screening wait until they board their aircraft. Construction of a permanent holding area will come in the next phase.

McNally said the timeline associated with the next projects still indicates work will begin by year’s end. She said plans are to bid the work in coming weeks, with the airport authority slated to act on a recommended contractor at its September meeting. That means construction should begin in October or November, she said.

That work will include construction of a new secured passenger holding area (doubling the size of the existing area), as well as separate corridors for boarding and deplaning passengers, a covered boarding gate and a larger area for TSA screeners. It also includes updating airline and car rental areas, relocating baggage screening equipment to an interior site, installing a canopy at the terminal’s front entrance, and increasing energy efficiency by reducing what is now six outside terminal doors to three vestibule doors.

In a related item, McNally said the maintenance staff has completed repainting the interior of the entire terminal. McNally said last month she wanted the terminal to match the south end of the terminal, where work has been concentrated.