HARLINGEN — Prepare for some dust at Valley International Airport this summer, but it’s going to be totally worth it, officials say.
The airport is ready to embark on a $1.2 million project to rip out the original late 1980s pinky-brown ceramic tile in the terminal building and replace it with blue and gray epoxy terrazzo.
The complicating factor here is the airport has to keep everything operational for three to four months once the installation begins in the first week of July.
“This is going to make our terminal building look brand, spanking new,” said Bryan Wren, assistant director of aviation for VIA.
The new flooring for VIA’s terminal is just the latest in a string of structural and maintenance improvements following a remodeling of the airport in 2010. They include the addition of air chillers and fan coil units, a new HVAC system which has cut utility costs by 35 percent and new LED lighting. A new roof is coming next year.
Wren said initially the airport had budgeted $1 million for the new floor but given the logistical issues, he said they believe the contracts with qualified bidders Spawglass just down the street and Mion Terrazzo Tile and Marble Co. are fair.
The Federal Aviation Administration is covering 90 percent of the total cost with the airport paying for the rest. The low bids still must be approved by the airport’s board, which is expected to take up the matter Monday.
“We can’t shut anything down,” Wren said. “The lobby, the front of the restrooms, the main walk paths, baggage claim and more importantly the ticket counter and the rental counter, nothing can ever be shut down.”
What that means is contractors are going to have to build elevated platforms for customers and passengers to tread on above the epoxy terrazzo as it dries and cures.
“The way terrazzo works, by the time you pour the epoxy terrazzo and you can actually put traffic on it is 16 hours,” Wren said. “So there’s no overnight work … we’re going to have to continue operations as normal.”
“Until it cures and to keep the Southwest ticket counter or the United counter or the rental cars open, they’re going to have to build elevated platforms to where people are going to walk on that above where the terrazzo is while it’s curing so that operations can continue,” he added.
“They lay it, cure it, then they do a grind, cure, grind, cure, grind, cure, and then at the very end, we’ll do a final polish,” Wren added. “It’s a pain.”
The three to four months of pain while the floor is being installed will be replaced by a much easier maintenance schedule as well as a floor which will last virtually forever.
“The floor will outlast the building,” he said. “In laymen’s terms, yeah, this floor is permanent.”
Unlike the pinky-brown ceramic down now, the new flooring will be what Wren calls “airport blue” like the color in VIA’s logo combined with gray.
“What it’s going to resemble if you’re walking in the middle of it, the gray will be like you’re on a sandbar and the blue will be on the sides like you’ve got water or ocean surrounding you,” he said.