Despite the economic slowdown, airport construction projects are continuing in the Mountain States region, where population and air traffic are increasing. Federal and state grants are driving improvement and expansion projects, and competition for the jobs is fierce, which is helping lower costs.

Following is a snapshot of the some of the projects in the region.

Denver International Airport

The most activity going on right now at any one airport is at Denver International Airport, where construction of a 22.8-mile commuter rail line to downtown recently began and a financing plan is in the works for a south terminal redevelopment program that could cost as much as $900 million.

The $1.3-billion East Corridor line from Denver’s downtown Union Station to the airport should be operational by spring 2016. The commuter train is being developed and financed through a public-private partnership between the Regional Transportation District and Denver Transit Partners, an international team jointly led by Irving, Texas-based Fluor Corp. and Australia’s Macquarie Capital Group Ltd., which will operate the system for RTD.

The new train line is a critical part of the first phase of the airport’s redevelopment program, which calls for a commuter-rail station located at the south end of the terminal and a rail bridge over the main roadway into the airport.

The first phase, estimated to cost $650 million, also includes a 500-room Westin Hotel and conference center, a public plaza connected to the existing terminal, more than 100,000 sq ft of retail and other concession space, and improvements to the existing concourse baggage and train systems.

A second phase, calling for a new parking structure and renovations to the Jeppesen Terminal Great Hall, is expected to cost $250 million. However, the scope and timeline of the second phase will depend largely on financing and other variables, airport officials say.

Parsons Transportation Group’s Denver office will manage the program, with Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava overseeing the conceptual design. Calatrava’s initial design concept, which was unveiled in July, aims to preserve the existing Jeppesen terminal and the signature white-tented roof designed by Denver architect Curt W. Fentress.

Gensler, a global architecture firm with a Denver office, will design the $179-million hotel portion of the project. M.A. Mortenson Co., also of Denver, will act as the construction manager/general contractor, collaborating on the design to ensure on-budget and on-time delivery by late 2013.

General airport revenue bonds will cover the majority of the cost for the first phase. Revenue generated from the new hotel, retail shops and concessions will be used to repay the bonds. Airport officials say no general fund money or city tax dollars will be used for the project, but the financial implications on airline rates and charges have yet to be determined.

A financing plan should be submitted before the end of 2010 to the Denver City Council, which oversees the airport budget.

The activity at DIA comes just months after the airport completed a $7-million, 1.6-MW solar electric-generating system to power its fuel storage and distribution system.

Other Front Range Airports

Also in the metro area, Hensel Phelps Construction Co., of Greeley, Colo., recently completed major construction on a new $13-million Air Traffic Control Tower at the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield. The 125-ft-tall tower will not be fully operational for several months until the Federal Aviation Administration installs and tests new radar equipment. BPA Group, Seattle, designed the project, which also included an adjacent 7,0000-sq-ft administration base building.

At Colorado Springs Airport, roughly $20 million in construction projects are in various stages. Bids have been received and are being evaluated for more than $12 million in taxiway, runway and apron rehabilitation projects, including $7.4 million in asphalt pavement repairs and resurfacing for the airport’s only crosswind runway.

Meanwhile, construction of two access roadways in the Airport Business Park will get underway later, with funding sourced from Defense Access Road program administered by the U.S. Dept. of Defense.