Jack Edwards National Airport in Gulf Shores announced in August it was making moves to get a tower and received assurances from the Federal Aviation Administration it would be one of the first new towers built nationwide since a 10-year moratorium was enacted in 2008.
Officials at the airport upped the ante on Sept. 12 with an announcement the authority is also moving forward with plans for a commercial terminal building as well.
“Things are really coming together here,” Airport Authority Manager Scott Fuller said. “We’re working on it.”
The authority is already getting the ball rolling with preliminary plans underway. Initial plans are to construct a terminal with two or three gates but there is room for as many as six.
“We’ve done an agreement with Barge, which is our airport engineer, to go ahead and do a conceptual design of the terminal,” Fuller said. “That’s about a 60- to 90-day project. What we need to do is based on the amount of passengers, the space, the needs of the [Transportation Security Administration], how big this thing should be, the layout, come up with a good budget for the facility.”
Having a terminal on the ground has always been a goal of the authority and some money has been set aside for years waiting for the opportunity.
“We’ve had a placeholder on the capital improvement program for 20 years now of about $3.5 million for the terminal,” Fuller said. “We don’t even know if that’s anywhere near what we need right now based on today’s numbers. We set up the terminal project in our capital fund, transferred some money over from reserves to start it.”
He knows it will likely be more than $3.5 million and that’s what the preliminary plan will determine.
“The main thing is now we’re doing that conceptual design and as soon as we get that back it will say here’s where it’s going, here’s what it’s going to look like, here’s how much it’s going to cost,” Fuller said. “Our next step would be to go ahead and move forward with the design, the bid specs, get ready to bid and the actual construction.”
“We’ve been working on getting this 139, the certificate for commercial air service, and we’re there,” Fuller said. “We’re only a couple of months away as far as finishing up our projects we need to do. The next phase is to court the airlines.”
Federal Aviation Regulation 139 governs how airports that accommodate air carrier service must operate and minimum conditions to be met, Fuller said. The earliest the terminal could be completed would be by spring of 2021. It would be the only terminal at a Baldwin County airport.
Fuller and the authority are continuing efforts to become the first airport in the county with a control tower. If the permitting and funding come together, Fuller hopes construction on the tower can begin this December, be completed in December 2020 and start operations in January 2021.
“Initiating the design of a new control tower and commercial airline terminal is an exciting step forward,” Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft said.
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