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MINNEAPOLIS-The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport recently opened two new regional concourses and six new gates at a third concourse as part of a $250-million expansion. In all, new aircraft gates at Concourses A and B will open as part of an $85-million phase of the expansion with additional jet gates scheduled to open on Concourse C by year’s end.

“Our new regional facility is among the first in the nation to offer dedicated gate hold areas and loading bridges for regional flights,” says Charles Nichols, chairman of the Metropolitan Airports Commission,which operates MSP.

Nichols says the new facilities are opening at a time when airlines nationally are exploring increased use of extended-range regional aircraft. The smaller jets are more cost-efficient to operate on routes with too little demand to fill larger aircraft.

“With these new facilities, we are well positioned for growth in regional operations,” he says.

Of the 30 new regional gates (14 on Concourse A and 16 on Concourse B), 22 gates can accommodate small regional jets. The six new gates on Concourse C are designed for larger commercial aircraft, such as the Airbus 320 and the Boeing 717. All new gates are leased to Northwest Airlines for its use or for use byits Northwest Airlink partners. Under the lease agreement, gates can be used by other regional airlines operating at MSP as well, including Comair, Sky West, Skyway and United Express.

Including the six additional Concourse C gates completed in 2000 and the five to open later this year, the former Green Concourse is expanding by a total of 3,000 feet–for a total length of 4,300 feet. The Metropolitan Airports Commission could not begin construction of those gates until a US PostalService facility located there was vacated and razed late last year. A portion of that expansion will beinaccessible to the public until construction is completed in December 2002.

The new facilities feature a half-mile of moving walkways as well as a full-service restaurant, theItasca Grill, and a food court featuring A&W, Godfather’s Pizza and Rapidos.

Completion of the new gates is the latest milestone in the airport’s $3.1-billion MSP 2010: Building a Better Airport expansion program. That program began in 1996, when the Minnesota legislature decided the Airports Commission should expand MSP at its current site rather than build a new airport elsewhere.

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