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DETROIT METRO AIRPORT New terminal will open soon



Published: Wed, January 30, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



About 100 people a day will fly from the local airport to Detroit's new terminal.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

DETROIT -- Commercial fliers taking off from the sleepy Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport will soon land at a new $1.2 billion airport terminal featuring an indoor tramway, 1.5 miles of moving sidewalk and a $3 million dancing water fountain.

Workers are still tinkering with conveyor belts and laying tile at Detroit Metro Airport's new terminal, scheduled to open to all Northwest Airlines traffic Feb. 24.

Among the 80,000 passengers expected to use the facility each day will be 100 or so people for the thrice-daily commuter planes to and from the Vienna airport. They are the only regularly scheduled flights from the local airport.

"Perceptually, the problem was that people thought Detroit Metro was not an appealing place," said Thomas Nolan, director of the local airport. "Now, with a new terminal, with all the modern conveniences, I think that will change."

What it's like: The 35-seat turboprop jets flying in from Vienna land a shuttle bus-ride from the old 1958 terminal, and passengers descend directly to the tarmac like visiting dignitaries. Inside the old terminal, pink wallpaper bubbles and peels on pillars near the baggage carousels, and in one low-ceilinged corridor, travelers skirt an orange bucket positioned to catch water dripping from the ceiling.

"It is pretty dumpy," said Kathleen Nelson, Northwest's chief financial officer for the new terminal construction. "I always describe it as working in somebody's basement."

The old terminal at the nation's tenth-busiest airport was also bursting at the seams, officials said. Northwest, which is responsible for 80 percent of the traffic at Detroit, designed and built the new terminal with funds from state and federal grants and the sale of bonds. It will be owned by Wayne County and occupied primarily by Northwest on a 30-year lease.

The terminal looks like precisely what it is: a big, modern airport. Departing passengers dropped off at curbside will be greeted by a row of 106 ticket counters, decorated in shades of white and brushed steel. Behind them, beyond metal detectors and security lines, escalators descend to the main concourse, with a Brooks Brothers and the 38-foot-wide black granite fountain.

Corridors trimmed with moving walkways extend a half-mile in either direction to 64 jet gates. Above, two cable-drawn trams dash passengers at 30 mph from one end of the terminal to the other. McDonalds, coffee shops and news stands will line the way.

Motorized walkway: Flights to Youngstown and other cities served by smaller planes depart from a separate building across the tarmac. The way there is through a 900-foot motorized walkway under the tarmac, illuminated by pulsating lights synchronized to music.

Northwest says it will take passengers an average of 11 minutes to make connections from one domestic flight to another. Luggage will arrive at the baggage carousels 15 minutes after the plane hits the gates, they say.

The system is to be tested over the next few days, with 7,000 used bags purchased from a company that buys unclaimed luggage from airlines. About five miles of baggage conveyors trace through the building, officials said.

With 11,500 spaces, the attached parking garage is the largest in the world to be built in a single shot.




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