Iqaluit airport to be overhauled by 2017

The Nunavut government is planning major renovations estimated to cost between $250 and $300 million.

Nunavut’s transportation hub is scheduled for up to $300M in renovations

The Nunavut government is planning a major overhaul for the Iqaluit International Airport with renovations estimated to cost between $250 and $300 million.

The changes will include a new terminal, a bigger parking lot, and repaving the 2700-metre runway. 

Construction is expected to start in 2014, with the revamped airport open by 2017.

The Nunavut government is searching for qualified builders. Then in the fall, up to three companies will be invited to submit a complete improvement plan.

Government officials said the project will benefit the economy and local workers.

"There's really going to be some opportunity for not just some short-term on-the-job training but actual career building," Paul Mulak, director of program management.

Mulak says the project will be a public-private partnership. The government will pay for its half by borrowing money.

The private partner will operate the airport for 30 years.

The request for qualifications will close in August.

Airport traffic has increased

Iqaluit's international airport was built in the 1980's. It's a transportation hub in Nunavut where there are no roads connecting communities.

There are not any ports either, so air transport is often the only way to move people and goods.

As Nunavut has grown, traffic at the Iqaluit airport has increased significantly.

"It was designed really for one jet to land here at a time, much smaller number of turbo prop operations into the communities," said John Hawkins, the airport’s manager.

Now, three or four jets park on the tarmac daily. Smaller planes arrive and depart constantly.

First Air and Canadian North operate in the airport, and now Air Greenland is also part of the weekly schedule.

"It's all controllable, but it's all controllable with compromise, but we can't compromise safety obviously," said Hawkins.