The Des Moines airport board plans to meet with consultants to look for ways to save money on a proposed new terminal, part of a planned $525 million airport overhaul.

A public meeting scheduled for Tuesday has been postponed so the board can meet with representatives of HNTB of Kansas City, Mo., which recently finished a study that gave the first detailed look at where various services would be in the new terminal, and how much space they would have. The terminal has not been designed yet, and financing is incomplete.

HNTB delivered its report last week. Airport officials said then that delays in federal financing could mean a delay of up to four years in the construction of the new terminal -- which will follow the reconstruction of the runways, relocation of small-plane operations and other related work. They also indicated that a $200 million projected financing shortfall has grown by $25 million or so, counting all related projects, at least as plans stand now.

At a special board meeting this morning, Kevin Foley, the airport’s executive director and general manager, outlined the airport’s strategy leading up to the work. The airport is banking savings to help pay for the work. Also, it is trying to use federal funds that are restricted to specific uses first, so that funds that are more flexible can be used to match any new sources of cash the federal government may offer later. Board member Kerty Levy called that “prudent.” 

Airports are lobbying Congress for an increased passenger facility fee that is charged on tickets, and President Donald Trump has said he wants to emphasize work on airports and other infrastructure. Foley said success on either of those fronts could allow the airport to speed up work on the terminal project, one of the biggest public works projects proposed in Iowa. 

Foley noted that at this early point no value engineering — looking for changes to save money — has been done. He added that growth in airport traffic will cause a crunch in the existing terminal before long.

The new terminal would replace the existing one, built in 1948, with 14 gates able to handle bigger planes than the 12 now in place. Four more could be added later. 

The new facility would have double the number of bathrooms, expanded parking, bigger observation areas, and a baggage claim down one level from the ticket counters.

Last week, Foley mentioned the possibility of using the existing terminal for administrative offices, which could allow the elimination of the third level in the new facility to save money. Today, he noted that there is some debate whether a contingency of 20 percent to 25 percent of project costs is necessary. Lowering that would save money, too.

In response to a board member’s question, Foley said construction on the new terminal would begin in 2025 at the earliest, running through 2027. In the worst case, construction would begin in 2027, he said. 

Some related work, such as construction of the access road and the parking garage addition, could begin before 2025, he added.

Board member Liz Ward said another option would be to look at “modular development” that would allow the project to be built in phases and might put the airport in an even better financial position at the end of the project. “I don’t want to build something cheaper and regret it later,” Ward said. “If we could afford (the project as planned), that would be great, but there always is a (budget) gap.”

The new terminal would be designed to handle 3 million passengers getting on and off planes annually when it opens, with room to handle 4 million. Traffic is already approaching 2.5 million passengers per year. 

Ward, Christensen and other board members said they want to meet with HNTB to discuss ways to sequence the project and to adjust the scope in hopes of closing the financing shortfall. “This is a complex project,” said Christensen, a developer. “It’s musical chairs with lots of zeroes.”

A final report from HNTB is expected in November. 

Read our coverage of the consultants’ report last week.