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The Omaha Airport Authority's master plan for Eppley Airfield calls for a renovation and expansion of the terminal. The potential $500 million project would reshape the terminal as shown here.

Eppley Airfield officials are pursuing a sound strategic plan to meet the steadily increasing demand while maintaining the convenience and efficiency for which the airport is known. The incremental renovation will be good for Eppley and for Omaha as a whole.

If passenger growth continues at its current pace, the Omaha Airport Authority plans to move forward over the next five years with a $500 million rebuild, The World-Herald’s Jeffrey Robb reports. The construction would modernize the concourse, airline gates, security checkpoints, ticket counters and baggage claim area. The central concept: changing to a single linear concourse and a single security checkpoint in the terminal’s center. This shift would boost efficiency and offer improved opportunities for food, concessions and retail.

Eppley has seen impressive demand growth in recent years, reflecting Omaha’s economic vitality and increased national prominence. The passenger total for 2018 — 5,043,194 — was a 9.4 percent increase from 2017. That growth exceeded the increases for other airports in the region and marked Eppley’s biggest annual increase since 1996. Among the country’s 61 largest airports, Eppley last year ranked No. 17 in capacity growth.

Eppley’s number of nonstop flights has doubled since 2009, going from 17 to 34. Omaha passengers can now reach a range of West Coast cities directly; Eppley recently added a second nonstop flight to San Francisco. Last year the airport began its first-ever regularly scheduled international flight, a daily nonstop to Toronto.

The Airport Authority would cover the cost of the planned renovation with long-term revenue bonds, paid back through operational revenue from the airport and a federal passenger facility charge. A preliminary design is expected by fall.

All construction would be in stages and dependent on passenger numbers reaching specific thresholds. That approach follows the sound principle the Airport Authority has long used for its strategic planning.

Capable management at Eppley Airfield well serves our community and complements the Omaha area’s economic development. It’s encouraging to see the airport’s practical plans for renovation, to maximize the long-term benefits for the airport and our community.

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