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The Air Force will renovate and expand the Lajes Field passenger terminal in the Azores to make it safer and more comfortable for passengers.

The $1 million improvement project will be funded by the Air Mobility Command, base officials said.

The project includes building an eatery, a souvenir shop and a plush distinguished-visitors lounge, said Capt. Robert Davis, flight commander for the 729th Air Mobility Squadron. A small child-care center, more telephones and Internet computers also will be added.

The terminal renovation should begin in April and be completed in 13 months, said Capt. Kevin Parker, a project manager with the 65th Civil Engineer Squadron. The project will go out for bids in the next few weeks, he said..

The main reason for the renovation is that the terminal needs to meet more stringent force-protection standards put into place after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Davis said.

An improved pick-up and drop-off area designed with safety in mind will better guard against a terror attack — in addition to making it easier for passengers toting heavy luggage.

“There’s a lot more bag-dragging across the street than there should be,” Davis said.

Lajes Field, located on Terceira island in the Azores, is a Portuguese air force base used by the U.S. military to support military cargo and fighter aircraft transiting the Atlantic Ocean. About 1,000 American active-duty personnel are stationed at the island base, which has been used by U.S. forces since World War II.

The base’s air terminal, housed in a building constructed in 1955, handles between 60,000 and 70,000 passengers each year.

The last renovation was in 1997. Terminal Superintendent Roy Vasconcelos said the terminal is narrow and long because it used to be a parachute packing facility. The expansion will add more than 6,000 square feet to the 12,926-square-foot building, giving passengers more elbow room as they wait for flights.

“We’re definitely going to be eliminating bottlenecks in there,” he said.

While the terminal gets a face lift, a temporary facility will be used across the street at the air freight center. It is expected to be only a minor inconvenience until construction is finished.

“Even though it’s going to be temporary, it will be a full-blown passenger terminal,” said Master Sgt. Michael Jones, 729th aerial port flight operations manager.

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