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Live in the Present & Plan for the Future

Construction is well underway at the Missoula Montana Airport of a new, $50 million, 85,000-square-foot East Concourse, a building that will include an expanded baggage claim, a rental car area, two new boarding bridges, another bar, food options and more restrooms. It will be attached directly to the existing main terminal building and should be finished by May of 2025. In 2026, another $8 million, 10,000-square-foot extension with more boarding gates will be added to that.

The airport continues to see growth in passenger numbers every year, and the new terminal building isn’t the only big project in the works.







Scenes from the opening day of Missoula Montana Airport’s new terminal, Wednesday, June 8, 2022.




The airport is also working on a new Missoula Airport Master Plan, which will utilize community input to guide how the airport evolves over the next two decades.

In 2022, there were nearly 850,000 passengers who used the airport. That includes people getting on and getting off airplanes. By 2042, that number could reach 1.5 million, based on growth forecasts.

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The airport held a public meeting on Wednesday to unveil information about the planning process, and people can still submit feedback until April 8 through the master plan survey online at flymissoula.typeform.com/to/SOcgGDqe.

“As our service area grows, this whole process is designed to guide our vision for responsibly planning for growth in a way that prioritizes safety and protecting local taxpayers from the costs of infrastructure upgrades,” said airport director Brian Ellestad. “We’re encouraged by the stakeholder and public engagement and look forward to continuing dialogue as we continue to serve as an economic catalyst for the region.”

In addition to hosting a public open house, the MSO Master Plan team has assembled a working group and has hosted dozens of stakeholder meetings since beginning the master plan process in December 2022.

“Our vision is to further secure our role as the preferred gateway to western Montana and the world. Thoughtful and visionary planning are crucial to that goal and we invite the community to continue to be a part of this collaborative process,” said Tim Damrow, MSO deputy director. “People might not realize that no local tax revenues are used for the administration, operation and maintenance of MSO. Developing a strong master plan is key to continuing that fiscal responsibility.”

Damrow and Ellestad said the goal is to take into account safety, transparency, collaboration and growth projections while maintaining a role as a trusted neighbor and protecting local taxpayers. The airport may reconfigure the airfield to improve safety and create opportunities for future growth. There may be development for cargo aviation and additional parking, including perhaps a new parking structure. The airport will also plan for future business opportunities in the terminal and on airport property. And, the planning process will take into account non-aeronautical land use opportunities for future commercial growth.

Anyone interested in the process is invited to take a brief survey to share priorities, ideas, and questions: flymissoula.typeform.com/to/SOcgGDqe.

David Erickson is the business reporter for the Missoulian. 

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