Design work for XNA sky bridge is 90% complete; Jebaraj joins board of directors

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 3,647 views 

Designers for Northwest Arkansas National Airport presented the initial design for a sky bridge as part of a nearly $32 million project to renovate the terminal entrance and install new escalators and elevators.

Northwest Arkansas National Airport (XNA) in Highfill is nearly completed with the design work for a $31.66 million project to build a sky bridge and renovate the terminal entrance.

Designers Hight Jackson, RS&H and Garver recently presented to XNA board members the design for the project, which is 90% completed. The construction manager is Nabholz. Design work, which is expected to cost $2.11 million, is set to be completed in early February.

XNA CEO Aaron Burkes noted the benefit of doing the work now, while passenger traffic is about one-third of what it was before the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, he said the airport might receive better bid pricing with the reduced pipeline of work for contractors.

“Costs of construction will probably never be less than they are now,” said Larry Perkin, partner at Hight Jackson. “They never seem to go down even though things are going to get a little thin around here.”

The project will include the sky bridge construction, work on the existing façade, and the installation of new escalators and elevators. About half of the cost would be the sky bridge.

Tim O’Donnell, chief financial officer, said a project funding source might be a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The project might go to bid sometime in the first half of 2021. XNA board member Mike Johnson said if bids were to exceed the budget, the airport can bid the project again in late 2021 or early 2022.

Board member Art Morris highlighted the importance of new escalators and elevators in the project. He also discussed the importance of building a control tower to replace the existing control room that was built as a temporary facility in 1998. Design work for the proposed $10 million control tower is expected to be completed in 2022.

XNA announced Tuesday (Dec. 29) that economist Mervin Jebaraj has joined the airport’s board of directors.

Jebaraj is the director of the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas.

Washington County Judge Joseph Wood appointed Jebaraj to fill the remainder of Stan Green’s term on board. Asked why Green resigned from the board, Alex English, public relations and marketing specialist for XNA, said he had increasing demands on his time with other boards and organizations and had to evaluate the best use of his time. His resignation was effective Nov. 24.

The Washington County Quorum Court confirmed Dec. 17 Jebaraj’s appointment to the board. Green’s six-year term started Jan. 1, 2019, and Jebaraj will serve the remainder of the term, which ends Dec. 31, 2024.

Jebaraj has worked for CBER for more than 13 years and brings to the board a strong understanding of the area and national economy, according to a news release. He is a member of the Community Development Council of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. He also serves as a director on the Walton Arts Center Board of Directors.

The XNA board comprises members from five cities and two counties: Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers, Siloam Springs and Springdale and Benton and Washington counties. Each appoints two members to the board.

Between January and November, XNA enplanements, or passengers flying out, have declined 60.5% to 333,558, from 844,849 over the same period in 2019.