A spruced-up area for passengers is part of a $2.3 billion, 12-year modernizing program
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Oct 28, 2010
International passengers' first impression of Hawaii after a long plane flight used to be a short ride to the baggage and customs areas on one of Honolulu Airport's stuffy Wiki-Wiki shuttle buses.
But that will change next month when the state unveils its new 2,100-foot-long enclosed, air-conditioned international arrivals corridor. The third-level walkway, which will serve international passengers who deplane at Gates 26 through 34, has a series of three people-movers that will eliminate the need for the shuttles.
In a dedication ceremony yesterday formally marking completion of the project, Gov. Linda Lingle noted that she had often received comments during her worldwide trips as governor and previously as Maui mayor that the international arrivals area at Honolulu Airport "wasn't at a level that befitted a tourism destination that was so world class."
"It was just a piece that was out of alignment," she said. "Having completed it, it's going to really set the tone for someone's first view of our state."
Jiro Sumada, deputy director of the state Department of Transportation, said about 1.5 million international visitors arrive at the airport every year and 80 percent of those will be using the new corridor. The rest will use other gates.
"It provides a positive and inviting environment for passengers to help them begin their trip to paradise," Sumada said.
The project is part of a 12-year, $2.3 billion airports modernization program that began in 2006. The cost of the new corridor project is about $37 million, with 75 percent of it federally funded. The project's general contractor is Honolulu-based Ralph S. Inouye Co.
Other components of the modernization plan include upgraded check-in counters, baggage claim areas, new parking structures, restaurants, improved maintenance facilities and baggage screening, a backup power generator and a photovoltaic system to generate the airport's electricity.
Lingle said these projects have helped stimulate the economy and create jobs.
"This (new international arrivals corridor) is timely for us as tourism begins to expand and grow, and this is the exact time to have this project come online as we continue to pursue the international market, particularly in China, Korea, Taiwan and, of course, Japan," Lingle said.
She said it's also well in advance of the 2011 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Meeting scheduled for November 2011 .
"So the timing couldn't be better," she said.