In the past few decades, airports have emerged as a regional economy’s most prominent, if not the most important, transportation asset. As Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport Executive Director Tony Bean, likes to say, “a mile of road can take you one mile, but a mile of runway can take you anywhere.” Airports tie the world together and that is especially true here on the Palouse.
With the movement toward a global economy, it is now recognized aviation is no longer just another mode of transportation. It is a vital component of the economic engine that drives the local, state and regional economies and thus requires continuous investments in the maintenance and improvement of adequate facilities and services. Air travel improves the quality of life in our region, provides a safe and secure way to get our university students, athletes, faculty and researchers around the world and back home, improves tourism opportunities, increases market access to our important business and industry sector and provides improved access to emergency healthcare services.
The Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport was created through a regional partnership in the 1930s that established a shared vision committed to reliable air transportation services to benefit our communities, universities and businesses. This partnership and vision have only strengthened through the years and the recent completion of runway realignment reflects this shared resolve.
Many of you joined us on a cold, windy October 2019 day to celebrate the reopening and realignment of our airport’s runway. That day culminated decades of planning, significant financial investment and years of hard work to help position the facility as a reliable, fully FAA-compliant regional airport. It was our strong regional commitment and collaboration that allowed us to cut the ribbon that day. But there is more to do.
Our existing airport terminal was constructed in the 1990s after the airport’s original 1960s terminal was deemed obsolete and no longer functional for traffic at the time. The total area of the building is less than 9,000 square feet. It was designed for 19- to 37-seat aircraft and obviously built to pre-9/11 standards. The existing facility provides us a mere 21 percent of the operational floor space that aviation industry consultants advise is needed. If you’ve flown from here, you’ve experienced what these constraints present to our flying public.
Passenger enplanements at the airport have been growing rapidly. Between 2010 and 2020 and despite COVID-19, we grew from 35,000 to 70,000 passengers annually. Aviation consultants forecast we will be at 145,000 by 2030, less than a decade away. Additionally, we are in discussions with several airlines about new service to Denver, Portland and Boise. As a result, the current terminal building will no longer serve the needs of our flying public.
Last fall the airport formed an advisory committee to provide a platform for stakeholder and community engagement to help frame the terminal project, determine the potential benefits and opportunities, help define the necessary terminal components and complement our consultant, Mead & Hunt, in terminal design efforts. This diverse group of volunteers represents many of our largest businesses, healthcare institutions, banking, chambers of commerce, university athletics, municipalities and other community interests. To date, the volunteers have provided a valuable sounding board as the new terminal design continues to take shape.
Having met numerous times throughout the past year, the advisory committee stressed the need for a fully functional terminal facility that is truly reflective of the Palouse with its beauty and rolling hills and is warm and inviting. Through its efforts, our group has created a canvas and image of what’s possible, affordable and functional in a new terminal.
We recently hosted open houses in Pullman and Moscow to provide our communities with a first-hand view of the project. While many of you were unable to join us in person, we encourage you to view this important work and comment at flypuw.com.
Because we know it is important to our communities, the energy systems and sustainability of the new terminal is a high priority. HVAC systems, including solar panels, water conserving fixtures, wisescape landscaping and other related features are being discussed.
To the extent we can afford them, we’ll ensure this facility reflects the values and priorities of all of you. After all, it will be one of the most important first impressions people have when arriving here on the Palouse.
Kimmell and Kimberling are members of the Pullman Moscow Regional Airport Board and co-chair the Terminal Advisory Committee.