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Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport opens new $92 million terminal free of debt

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(The Center Square) – Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport opened the doors to its new terminal Wednesday morning, sending its inaugural flight to Seattle and back before noon.

The 47,000-square-foot facility sits just down the road from the old terminal, which is only a fraction of its size. The project involved more than the terminal; developers spent the last two years building the new $92 million facility, but it took seven years to plan and adjust the runway.

Overall, the new terminal and runway adjustments cost $250 million, with $18 million coming from local sources and the rest from state and federal funds, said Pullman Mayor Francis Benjamin, chair of the PMRA Board.

Benjamin and Art Bettge, Mayor of Moscow, ID, and vice-chair of the PMRA Board, were among the first passengers on the inaugural flight to Seattle.

“We had the first flight out of the terminal,” Benjamin said. “You could definitely [sense] a lot of energy in the room.”

While PMRA opened its new terminal this morning, a 5,000-square-foot expansion is still under construction and slated for completion this summer. Benjamin said the airport will host a formal ribbon-cutting event once that wraps up.

However, more expansions are coming. Benjamin said the new airport was built with future growth in mind, so while the West Expansion opens in July or August, he expects more growth over the coming years.

“What’s pretty exciting about the runway project and the terminal, including the expansion,” Benjamin said, “is when we’re done, we’ll have no debt at all.”

He said Pullman and Moscow spent decades planning and budgeting for the recent upgrades, a practice that will continue as the communities grow and the demand for more space increases.

“If you think about an $18 million leverage in order to complete a quarter of a billion dollar project,” Benjamin said, “that’s a pretty good use of funds.”

The airport currently offers only two flights to Seattle a day; however, that capacity will expand to five or six, with an additional trip to Boise, ID, once Washington State University and the University of Idaho return to school in August. Benjamin said destinations could expand to neighboring hubs in the future, but nothing is concrete yet.

Phil Weiler, WSU’s vice president of marketing and communications, said the new terminal represents a period of growth for Pullman and Moscow, benefiting the respective universities and the students, scholars and researchers who travel the world to attend.

He compared the project’s impact to an old railroad reaching a community back in the day. Like in the past, when railways spurred growth in rural towns, the new terminal created a stronger link between Pullman, Moscow and the cities that people fly to.

“This is a really unusual project in the sense that it is being supported by two states, by two cities,” Weiler said. “Two cities in different states, by two universities that are in different states. It’s a great partnership and pretty unusual when you look at airports of this size.”

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