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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Northern Norway’s ‘biggest move ever’

The northern Norwegian city of Bodø has approved ambitious plans to literally move its airport just 900 meters, thereby opening up valuable new waterfront land for redevelopment. If also approved by Parliament, it will be the biggest land-based construction project ever undertaken in Northern Norway, and further boost a city that’s already blossoming.

Norway’s scenic northern city of Bodø will be moving its airport runways 900 meters south, to the opposite side of terminal buildings now showing in the center of this photo, just to the right of the existing runways. That will open up prime new land for the city to expand into where these runways are now, and significantly extend its waterfront for redevelopment. At far left in the distance, by the way, is the spectacular Lofotveggen, literally like a wall of mountains shooting up from the sea that make up the popular area of Lofoten. PHOTO: Avinor

Bodø’s City Council formally agreed on Thursday to cooperate with state airports agency Avinor and Forsvarsbygg, another state agency in charge of military property, to move the airport. That was made possible after Norway’s fighter jet base was moved from Bodø farther south to Ørland. That opened up space and, with many facilities no longer needed, the possibility to move runways from the northern side of the terminal building to the southern side.

Moving the runways will in turn open up space for urban development of a city surrounded by sea and mountains that’s already seeing growth and a boom in its tourism business. Bodø is easily accessible from Oslo, serves as a key port for the Hurtigruten coastal voyage line, and is a popular hub for trips to scenic Lofoten, just across the Vestfjorden to the northwest, and the Helgelands Coast to the south.

This illustration gives an idea of how “The New Bodø” will look when the airport’s move is completed, around 2026. ILLUSTRATION: Avinor//Statsbygg

Avinor officials also note that moving the airport’s runways will significantly reduce airline noise, and allow construction of new runways that can accommodate large civilian aircraft such as the Boeing 787 and Airbus 340. Both of which could offer intercontinental flights directly to and from Northern Norway, thus reducing demands on Norway’s gateway airport in Oslo.

The project, called simply “New city, new airport” (Ny by, ny flyplass)  is expected to cost NOK 5 billion (USD 625 million), including a new terminal building, navigation facility, operation bases and a public transit system. The price tag does not include the costs of ridding the area of pollutants from its years as a major air force base, but that’s expected to be covered by Forsvarsbygg, along with removal of various military infrastructure.

The state’s National Transport Plan has already allotted NOK 2.4 billion in funding for the project. Added costs will be borne by the city, Avinor and Forsvarsbygg with much of the financing reportedly already in place.

Avinor chief Dag Falk-Pedersen was jubilant, as was the mayor of Bodø, Ida Pinnerød of the Labour Party. “Now we’re ready to get started, and we have the support we’ve received from the city, Forsvarsbygg and in the Parliament through the National Transport Plan,” Falk-Pedersen told state broadcaster NRK Thursday afternoon. “We want to break ground as soon as possible.”

Falk-Pedersen stressed that the airport at Bodø already is one of the few in Norway that actually earns money, and now its capacity will expand greatly. He noted that recent major expansion projects of the airports in Bergen and Oslo were completed on time and under budget, “so this will go fine.” Groundbreaking is expected in 2020 or 2021, with completion in 2024-2026.

There were some voices of dissent, but local and state politicians think the project will provide a huge boost for Bodø itself, which already has seen the recent openings of a landmark library and cultural center, new hotels, new housing and various infrastructure projects. Mayor Pinnerød was delighted by the multi-partisan cooperation on the City Council and with both Avinor and Forsvarsbygg. She and many others now envision new cruise terminals, residential and commercial projects on the seaside of downtown.

“This is an exciting day and it’s fantastic that we’ve pulled this together,” she said. A team of urban planning experts from the UN’s Hamburg-based Habitat Professionals Forum has called the project “a unique opportunity” to significantly expand a city, and beautify it. Civil engineer Faye Beaman of the organization that advises on sustainable development also called Bodø itself “a fantastisk place with incredible surroundings.” Berglund



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