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Rochester International Airport expansion breaks ground

Five years after being notified Rochester International Airport needed to upgrade its U.S. Customs facilities, symbolic shovels moved symbolic dirt Tuesday, marking the start of a $12 million renovation project.

Airport Executive Director John Reed said the work goes beyond meeting federal requirements to keep the operation's international status, which would have been stripped without the planned safety and security upgrades.

What's included in the project?

The U.S. Customs facility, which serves as a port of entry for flights and processes passengers from more than 100 countries, will be expanded to 20,000 square feet. The addition seeks to increase efficiencies for international travelers to meet the current safety, security and space requirements.

Additional renovations to the 56-year-old building will include creating centralized ticketing counters and relocating baggage claims to a single area. New restrooms and increased space for the airport checkpoint will also add to customer convenience, Reed said.


How long will it take?

Construction is expected to take 12 months and officially started April 10.

Nick Leimer, director or operations for Kraus-Anderson Construction Co., said work includes four additions to the building, but none of them will touch each other. As a result, he said scheduling will be important to ensure work does not hinder airport operations..

"This is a really complex project, and it will impact almost every area of this facility over the next 12 months," he said.

Who's paying for it?

Funding for the upgrades includes $7.3 million in federal funds, $3.8 million from Rochester city funds and $790,000 from Minnesota Department of Transportation Aeronautics.

Additionally state money is being considered for the project, which would offset the city's contribution, according to City Administrator Stevan Kvenvold, noting the city is using sales tax dollars dedicated to transportation needs at this point.

Rep. Nels Pierson said state legislation has funding earmarked for the project.


"We've committed funds in the transportation bill for projects like this," the Rochester Republican said.

Bonding bills proposed earlier this year by Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Senate included $2.3 million for the expansion project.

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