Frigid temperatures and falling snow aren't impeding the progress at the Williston Basin International Airport site, as crews continue to work toward an opening date of Oct. 10, 2019.
Airport Director Anthony Dudas said despite the complications from sub-zero conditions and the recent heavy snowfall, the XWA project is coming along "really well" and that projects are still on track to meet the airport's October deadline.
"We are on schedule right now and things are continuing to look that way, especially with this really challenging winter weather we're all having to work through," he said. "It is not slowing down or impacting our schedule at this time."
Dudas said the main focus at this point is completion of the commercial passenger terminal, as it is has the longest build time of all the projects at the site. He added that the terminal is what is leading the schedule for XWA, as it is one of the most important structures in regard to airport operations. Workers continue to make progress toward enclosing the structure, with crews installing the framework for the glass wall that will surround the building. The glass itself should be installed in the next few weeks, Dudas added. He said it is anticipated that the structure will be fully enclosed by March.
Construction on the airport's paved surfaces has been paused for the winter, as FAA guidelines require temperatures above 40 degrees before any concrete can be poured, but Dudas said the contractors for those projects are prepared for when those warmer temps do return, to complete that phase of construction quickly. Dudas said there are additional projects ,out for bid, which also require warmer temperatures before they can begin, but that some projects that don't have to follow such strict guidelines, such as the parking lot and roads into the facility, can begin earlier.
"We are hopeful that sometime in the middle of April, or at the latest early May, that the weather will cooperate and we'll be able to get the ball rolling," he said. "But there are other areas that don't have those stringent standards that can we can initiate prior to that."
In terms of overall airport success, Dudas said that airport boardings at Sloulin Field were up around 8 percent for 2018, and that Delta will be adding a third flight from Williston beginning in June, along with the fourth flight added through United last month, which will further increase boardings in the area.
"That's actually about a 39 percent increase in seats that are flying out of our facility this year alone," he said. "And that's going to place (Williston) in the top 10 growing airports in the nation. It's very exciting. As our economy continues to grow in the Williston Basin, the airlines are responding with additional aircraft to serve our community."
In terms of additional carriers servicing the new airport, Dudas and City Commissioner Chris Brostuen will be traveling this summer to meet with several carriers to share the progress on XWA, and what it will provide to the community. One hope, he said, is to try and attract "leisure" carriers to the area, such as Allegiant and Frontier.
"That's one of our focuses," he said. "To get some of those low-cost carriers that fly to more leisure destinations to enhance our air service for our community as we move into this new facility."