PORTLAND, Maine — A $75 million terminal expansion at the Portland International Jetport is finally ready for takeoff.
Officials and politicians held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday morning, and the public is invited to take a free tour of the 140,000-square foot expansion from 9 a.m.-noon Saturday. Service will officially kick off in the new terminal on Sunday morning.
Instead of a ribbon, a giant boarding pass was cut at Friday’s event.
Airport director Paul Bradbury said that Sen. Susan Collins, Rep. Mike Michaud and Rep. Chellie Pingree were among the speakers.
“It went exceptionally well,” Bradbury said in a telephone interview Friday afternoon.
The new 145,000 square-foot terminal will feature four new departure gates, a quicker check-in process with up to five security screening checkpoints, a sky bridge that connects the adjacent parking garage to the concourse, and a new roadway system with separate thoroughfares for inbound and outbound traffic..
“All of these things, it will make it that much more efficient for our passengers,” said Bradbury.
The project was largely funded by passenger fees, according to airport officials.
The interior and exterior of the terminal have significant “wow” factors, according to Bradbury, but it’s the little things — such as seats in the terminal with power and USB outlets — that will be essential to travelers.
“We know how our travelers these days have multiple digital devices that need to have electricity,” Bradbury said. “You can get into the terminal and pull up your devices and get the content you’re looking for and get on your flight.”
The terminal will also feature free wireless Internet access, and the interior showcases a soaring hall with glass walls, concrete floors and a pine ceiling that will give the airport a big-city feel while maintaining its small-city tranquility, Bradbury said.
After passengers go through security, there will be plenty of room past the checkpoints to check email, grab a bite to eat or relax before boarding flights, and the new food court will include a Burger King and a Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine Lobster Roll, where passengers can buy a live lobster to enjoy later.
The new food court and extra security checkpoints are expected to boost the airport’s economy.
“The Linda Bean and Burger King restaurants, they’ve already hired 30 new employees, so it’s just wonderful news,” said Bradbury.
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine, who helped cut the big boarding pass, says the project created more than 90 construction jobs and gives the jetport the capacity to move more travelers in and out of Maine. The Maine Democrat also highlighted the geothermal heating system installed hundreds of feet below the terminal, which she says will hold 50,000 gallons of heating oil every year.
Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe says the expansion enhances a vital lifeline to Maine.
Also among the other improved security features is a hidden conveyor system with automated explosives detection for luggage.
US Airways and JetBlue will enjoy spacious new ticketing lobbies, while the airport’s other carriers, Delta, United, Continental, AirTran, Air Canada and Twin Cities Air Service will remain in the existing terminal until February.
AirTran has merged with Southwest Airlines, and Bradbury said service with the major carrier is expected to start in Portland next spring, which should give the airport another boost from travelers who have to head to Manchester, N.H., or Boston’s Logan Airport for Southwest flights.
“It’s a huge score for us, they’re the largest domestic carrier,” Bradbury said of the coming Southwest service.
With that service set to begin soon, coupled with the new terminal and Portland’s relatively cheap ticket prices, Bradbury expects more passengers to pass through the jetport.
“We actually have very competitive pricing, better than Manchester and Logan,” he said. “Why not fly from your local airport, and support all the local business and people working here?”
A lucky traveler will also have a chance to win an all-expenses paid airline trip from Portland courtesy of JetBlue. A drawing will be held at the open house Saturday, and the award is two round-trip tickets from Portland to any city that JetBlue flies.
Free parking is available to the public for the open house, and parking vouchers will be provided inside the new terminal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.