Hard-hat workers at Raleigh-Durham International Airport marked the start of a Terminal 1 makeover Thursday by ceremonially peeling off a couple of faded, spruce-blue steel panels from the curbside facade.
Inside, crews already were busy reducing the 30-year-old building to its structural skeleton.
Terminal 1 will receive a $68 million overhaul before reopening in 2014 with nine passenger gates and probably two airline tenants Southwest and its AirTran subsidiary.
Passengers long have scorned the building as ugly, drafty and bewildering. When the completed $570 million Terminal 2 opened last year to public acclaim, and with most of RDUs airlines, the old Terminal 1 looked even shabbier.
Im excited to get rid of the blue box, Terry Yeargan, chairman of the RDU Authority board, said during a brief ceremony Thursday.
Terminal 1 was built on the cheap in 1982. Airport officials said it would serve as a passenger terminal only temporarily, until they finished a new terminal on the other side of the airport. After that, perhaps it would be converted into a hangar for private aircraft.
But plans changed. The blue box became permanent, a fixture for three decades while RDU built the red-roofed Terminal C, then built a new parking garage and new general aviation hangar, and then tore down Terminal C and built Terminal 2.
With the kickoff of the Terminal 1 modernization program, RDU completes the final piece of the terminal development efforts, at least for the foreseeable future, said Michael Landguth, the airport director.
Southwest and its recently merged partner, AirTran, now operate in the northern end of Terminal 1, where parts of the building date back to 1955 when RDUs first permanent passenger terminal opened. Together, the two airlines handle about 23 percent of the 9 million passengers who fly in and out of RDU each year.
Southwest and AirTran will move into the remodeled central part of Terminal 1 when it reopens in 2014 clad in metallic gray instead of blue. The north end of the building will be padlocked. RDU officials say they may wait a few years to decide whether to remodel or demolish both the northern end of Terminal 1 and a southern passenger concourse that was added during a 1990s growth spurt.
The Terminal 1 architect is Pearce Brinkley Cease + Lee of Raleigh, and the builder is D.H. Griffin-Balfour Beatty Construction, a joint venture. The project will employ 300 to 350 construction workers.
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