Saturday, April 4, 2020
April 4, 2020

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Change is coming to Portland airport

Concourse E expansion aims to improve efficiency

The Columbian
3 Photos
A rendering of proposed changes - Alaska and United switch - and extension of concourse E at PDX.
A rendering of proposed changes - Alaska and United switch - and extension of concourse E at PDX. Photo Gallery

With only one acre left, the Portland International Airport has nearly shed the last of its famous 30-year-old carpet. But that is just the beginning of some major upgrades to one of the nation’s highest-ranked airports.

Construction is underway for the renovation and expansion of Concourse E, which is spotted on the right side when driving into the airport. The 210-foot extension will increase the efficiency of airport operations and improve the level of service to passengers, according to the Port of Portland, at a cost of $98 million.

A couple of airlines also will move different concourses. Alaska Airlines will move from its gates on concourses A, B, and C to the updated Concourse E. Alaska carries 41 percent of Portland International Airport passengers.

Meanwhile, United Airlines will switch from Concourse E to Concourse C, according to the port.

Construction will last until late 2017, followed by the airline swap, which is expected to take 24 to 48 hours.

“We’re trying to avoid airlines’ having what is referred to as split operations,” which occurs when flights arrive and depart from different areas in the terminal, said Kama Simonds, Port of Portland spokeswoman.

The concourses are split between two sides, south (A, B and C) and north (D and E). Each has a security entrance, though a corridor connecting C to D means passengers can choose the less busy checkpoint.

Now, “about two-thirds of the passengers use the south side,” Simonds says. The rebalancing will bring those numbers closer to 50-50. This is expected to shorten lines and distances from security to the gates.

PDX Next is the name of the project that covers these improvements. Other upgrades include new shops and vendors, a new security door, and a remodeling of the federal inspection station for incoming international flights.

PDX has welcomed new shops and restaurants this year, including Bambuza Vietnam Kitchen, Henry’s Tavern, Hissho Sushi, Metalsmiths Sterling, MOD Pizza, Mo’s Seafood & Chowder, Potbelly Sandwiches, and The Country Cat at PDX, according to the port’s website.

To improve safety, new one-way doors at security checkpoints will automatically lock out anyone attempting to enter the exit lane going the wrong way.

International passengers will receive not only a warmer welcome, but a drier one, too. Two new canopies will be installed to keep travelers out of the rain while boarding the bus to the federal inspection station. Once at the station, there will be more floor space, better lighting, new carpeting, painted walls, Wi-Fi, and video information monitors.

In 2014, there were 496,727 international passengers at Portland International Airport — and that number is expected to grow.

Regarding all the changes, Simonds urges travelers to “make sure to read the signs.”

“We want this to be a seamless and pleasant experience,” she said.