AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - The passengers on a late morning Aero Mexico jet were the first from an international flight to use the new terminal expansion at ABIA. The first flight out of the new expansion left Austin a little before 6:00 am Thursday morning for Atlanta.
There are 9 new gates increasing the total number at ABIA to 34. The 175,000 square foot addition cost $350 million. Its estimated that 6,000 tons of steel was used in the construction.
The design team that drew up the plans also built the original terminal. "So we were very excited when we got this commission,” said David Lynch with the design and architecture firm Gensler.
The design team, according to Lynch, had a specific vision in mind for the add on.
"We settled on a theme we call, Texas Dance Hall.”
Passengers who two-stepped down the corridor will pass by Texas themed art. The second floor offers a space-ship looking sky club called the oculus. It was inspired by the Austin Moonlight Towers.
Next to it is a public observation deck that provides a wide view of the eastside runway. With the addition, ABIA Officials say the entire terminal - if stood upright - would stand taller than the Frost Bank building downtown. One of the most unusual features is located down this hallway - a puppy potty, which design team member Vineta Clegg says was drawn up with a smile.
"Yeah it did, it was quirky. Definitely quirky,” said Clegg.
Pets and their owners will use a private room which includes artificial turf and a decorative fire hydrant. "I've seen it in some airports in the US, but again its not that common, its begging to take off a little bit, but I think it will be hugely popular here in Austin,” said Clegg.
Under the expansion a new baggage area ties into a total rehab of the airport luggage carousels.
This expansion is far from the end, its actually just the beginning.
ABIA has plans to start building on the north side of the terminal and the south side. In the ABIA 2040 Master Plan, a second row of gates will be built near the control tower. A new main building will replace the old parking garage. An open air plaza will separate the current Barbara Jordan Terminal and the new one that will be built.
Construction could possibly start in the next 7 years.
That has city planners already looking for ways to minimize the impact on those arriving and leaving the airport. "And so being able to alleviate those pinch points I think is important, we want to move as quickly as we can but in the right way,” said ABIA Project Assistant Barbara Beeson.
Doing it right also applies to the work that continues in the new expansion. Some shop locations remain under construction and a few final touches are still being done that passengers will have to avoid for the next few days. The terminal will continue to be named after the late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. Officials at ABIA noted the opening of the expansion took place on Jordan's 83rd birthday.