XNA committee recommends Hight Jackson for terminal project

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 1,045 views 

Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) in Highfill may soon hire Hight Jackson Associates of Rogers to design a $20 million terminal renovation project that’s expected to include an elevated walkway, or sky bridge, from the parking deck under construction to the checkpoint inside the terminal.

The airport’s operations committee, which is comprised of members of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport Authority, recommended Hight Jackson as the first choice and Wittenberg, Delony & Davidson Architects of Fayetteville as the second choice. On April 11, the airport board is expected to vote on the committee’s recommendation. The committee made the recommendation after listening to presentations from Hight Jackson, Wittenberg, Delony & Davidson, Corgan of Dallas and Gensler of Denver.

Scott Van Laningham, CEO and executive director for XNA, said staff will first attempt to negotiate a contact with the top choice. If unsuccessful, staff will move onto the second choice. The airport board will likely vote on a design contract June 20. Van Laningham said that the initial selection process wasn’t based on price, as that’s determined in contract negotiations.

In the project, the proposed sky bridge would run from a connector building adjacent to the parking deck, above the existing road in front of the terminal and connect to the existing checkpoint on the second floor of the terminal. The project also would allow the airport to replace 20-year-old escalators and add a second elevator to the terminal. The project was first discussed two years ago.

Airport Director Kelly Johnson said she expects the airport will receive federal funding for the project. However, the percentage of funding has yet to be determined as the Federal Aviation Administration typically provides the highest amount for runway projects. Between 50% and 60% of funding would be good for terminal projects, Van Laningham said.

Hight Jackson will work with RS&H, Garver Engineering, Terracon and Connico on the project. RS&H would lead the planning, programming and conceptual design in the early stages and structural engineering services. Hight Jackson would handle design development, construction documents and construction oversight. Mechanical, electrical and plumbing and civil engineering services would be handled by Garver. Terracon would complete geotechnical services, and Connico would provide cost estimates.

Larry Perkin, partner and principal-in-charge for Hight Jackson, said the team will make sure the airport experiences as a little disruption as possible. Once work starts, the project would be completed in about two years. Construction would start on the outside of the terminal, and the contractor would install a tunnel to protect passengers from the surrounding construction zone, said Jeffry Reddy, lead architect for RS&H.

The bridge in the terminal would be built before the existing elevator and elevators are removed. The bridge outside the terminal would be connected after that. The company plans to create computer generated models of foot traffic in the terminal. Reddy said nothing that will be replaced would be removed from operation until its replacement is operating.

Frank Gratton, design architect for RS&H, showed three design concepts in the presentation and focused on the third concept. It included a rotunda building, leading to an arch suspension sky bridge. The bridge would have glass walls and louvers at the upper levels, providing for shade. Inside the terminal, the bridge had a hole cut into it to allow light to flow to the ground level.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to create a new front door for the airport,” Gratton said. “It’s just a vision we have, but we want to work with you to create your vision because it’s not about us it’s about you.”

RS&H has 166 aviation clients and specializes in small hub and no hub airports, said Broutin Sherrill, vice president and senior aviation engineer for the company.

In the XNA project, Perkin wants the contractor on board from the start. This is considered construction management at risk, and would be different than designing the project first and taking the project to bid in order to select a contractor. Perkin said the airport can use the design and bid process but recommended the construction management at risk based on the complexity of the project. Sherrill said the airport could start with construction management at risk and switch to a hard bid process. Nearly 90% of Hight Jackson’s work is construction management at risk, Perkin said.

In Wittenberg, Delony & Davidson’s presentation, the company would work with Alliiance of Minneapolis, Minn., on the project. Richard Alderman, principal-in-charge for WD&D, and Eric Peterson, principal designer for Alliiance, spoke on the design project.

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