Walbridge lowers bid to win terminal deal in Panama City

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Developers of the new Panama City-Bay County International Airport continue press for a 2010 opening through the selection of general contractor Walbridge to build the seven-gate terminal located in northwestern Florida.

Walbridge was awarded the contract this week after lowering its bid to $58.8 million from $68.6 million. The airport's control tower and cargo facility are also part of the deal.

Construction of the replacement airport is four months ahead of schedule, said Roy Willett, senior project manager for project/construction firm Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), said during a tour of airport grounds on 9 October.

Once construction is complete, the new airport will have a 10,000-ft (3,048 m) commercial runway, 59% longer than the existing, 6,300-ft runway.

Initially the new runway was to be 8,400 ft, but the airport received $4.5 million from the Florida legislature for a 1,600-ft extension to the south, permits pending. The airport has started the permitting process for the expansion and says lengthening the runway is not expected to impact the construction schedule.

Plans also allow for the new commercial runway to be lengthened by 2,000 ft to the north. The unfunded extension will be pursued depending on the type of aircraft that utilize the facility, airport executive director Randy Curtis says.

In addition to a small cargo facility, long-term plans include development of a second, 8,400 ft runway in 20 years.

Most of the land for the second parallel runway has already been permitted if it becomes necessary to accelerate its development, Curtis

Slated to open on 31 May 2010, the new airport will allow for one million enplanements annually, whereas the current airport - considered a regional facility - has one fifth of that amount.