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2004-05-19 08:46:13

NIA 14/32 Runway Repair Pact Inked

Lagan Holding Ltd. International, a United Kingdom-based firm on Monday signed a contract to rehabilitate 14/32, the main runway at Nassau International Airport .

The $35.5 million project will include the installation of signs, pavement markings and drainage. The project, which will be divided into two phases: SI Improvement Part I and Part II, to begin on June 15 with completion set for April 2005. During construction 9/27 will serve as the main runway.

In the masterplan, the complete NIA upgrade was estimated to cost $200 million but was significantly reduced by more than $100 million.

Called "a disaster waiting to take place," the 11,000-foot runway 14/32 is "economically-tied" to the country, which is about to embark on numerous tourist investments, Prime Minister Perry Christie said, prior to signing the contract at the airport Monday morning.

In addition to Kerzner International's $1 billion Phase III Atlantis expansion project, Mr Christie said the Cable Beach project will be complemented by the NIA.

"We therefore look to the future with great anticipation that, on a sustained basis, larger numbers of people will be coming through this airport," he said. "The culture we'll establish will result in our never having a government inherit something they have to totally rebuild."

Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna-Martin said runway 14/32 has deteriorated to such an extent that it compromises "the lifeblood of this country."

The minister disclosed that a passenger facility charge, to soon be implemented, will assist in funding the project, as well as capital from franchise holders. NIA, Mrs Hanna-Martin said, is one of few airports in progressive nations that does not impose a user fee to support its maintenance and development.

"Airports worldwide have become state-of-the-art entities, on the cutting edge of development. Unfortunately, The Bahamas has lagged behind considerably," she said, assuring that upon NIA's upgrade completion, it will "represent a culturally-rich, unique, modern and refreshing experience for all those who pass through its gates."

In complete compliance with the United States' standards, heightened airport security and safety will be the main focus of NIA's re-construction. The Bahamas is Training and "re-training" of security personnel is a vital and an important component of the mandate.

Focusing on the country's scarce resources, the Christie administration is reviewing ways to upgrade airports in Exuma, Abaco and Eleuthera, both in infrastructure and security. All three Family Island airports have also been deemed problematic. The Government is therefore considering extending the Airport Authority's duties to include those three airports.

The project will provide jobs for local contractors, who will work along with Lagan Holding and Canadian engineering company, Earth Tech.

Lagan Holding's principal Richard Jones assured that quality and a speedy process would be determined by collaborative effort shared by the government, its ministries, consultants and Earth Tech's senior manager David Pratt, who will direct the project.

Since December 2002, Earth Tech has been involved in the airside preliminary improvement plans. Earth Tech assists companies in limiting risks tied to modifying facilities and other projects with its expertise in environmental services, global transportation and engineering technology. It provides a total spectrum of services needed to plan, design and construct projects from start to finish.

Lagan Holding has completed projects around the world, including road projects in Jamaica and St Lucia and a runway extension in Anguilla.

Khashan Poitier, The Nassau Guardian 

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