Travelers walk through the terminal at Kona International Airport in August 2012. (West Hawaii Today/File Photo)
Approximately 400 Japanese passengers disembark from Japan Airlines flight 70 at Kona International Airport after completing a direct flight from Tokyo, Japan in this 1996 photo. (West Hawaii Today File Photo)
Kona International Airport could be the recipient of more than $113 million for terminal expansion, security enhancements and a new international arrivals area that tourism officials say will serve as a second gateway into Hawaii.
Big Island Visitors Bureau Executive Director George Applegate said the proposed $37.5 million international arrivals building will help move the state forward, attract additional international flights and provide jobs. The building is needed for attracting new flights because it will house customs and immigrations officials, which haven’t been stationed at the airport’s international tent since Japan Airlines stopped flying to Kona in 2010.
“A second gateway is a must if we’re to grow,” he said. “If we hope to see a couple million (visitors) coming to our state in the future, we need a second gateway.”
According to Applegate, Honolulu is the fourth largest airport in the nation and can sometimes reach its carrying capacity prompting the need for a second international airport.
Kona International Airport has kept its international designation thanks to chartered flights from Japan, Applegate said, adding that when those flights come in, customs and immigrations officials are flown in to assist. Flights from Canada do not require customs and immigration.
State Department of Transportation Spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter said the international arrivals building would be a permanent structure housing an arrival area, restrooms, and office space for the state Department of Agriculture, and federal customs and immigration and other agencies. If all goes smoothly, she said, the money could be released in August 2013 with work starting in 2015.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority, in a statement released Tuesday, said it will also use $2 million in funds allocated by the state Legislature to determine ways to channel growth to the neighbor islands.
“We will continue to work with our airline and industry partners in re-establishing Kona as a second international port of entry for the Hawaiian Islands,” the statement said.
Funding for the project is being requested by Gov. Neil Abercrombie in his two-year budget submitted Monday. It includes, in fiscal year 2013-14, $1.5 million for design of the new international arrivals building, $70 million for terminal expansion and $5.9 million to replace security access and closed circuit TV systems. In fiscal 2014-15, $36 million is requested to construct the international arrivals building.
In all, the governor’s budget requests $12.4 billion in general funds for 2013-15 and about $2.6 billion in capital improvement project funding. The budget next goes to the state Legislature for consideration and passage. It is then transferred back to the governor.
Funding for the airport projects would be derived from special funds, airport revenue bonds, passenger facility charges and about $10,000 from special funds, according to the budget request.
The $70 million sought for terminal expansion will help modernize the airport by connecting its terminals, Sluyter said. A building will be constructed to connect the terminals on the parcel housing the Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center, which will be moved as part of the project. The expansion will allow for underground agricultural inspections and baggage movement.
The $5.9 million to replace security cameras and closed circuit TV systems will help modernize security efforts throughout the airport, she said.
“We are upgrading the system throughout the entire airport,” Sluyter said.