Airport growth set to take off

Current efforts that airport officials in Kalamazoo County and Kent County are launching to make sure people can catch an airplane in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, respectively, should not go unnoticed.

Although there has been no indication that there will be significant growth in the populations and economies of West Michigan communities, each anticipates more passenger traffic.

On March 11, Cliff Moshoginis, director of the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport, announced that he has been authorized by the airport's Aeronautics Board of Trustees to petition the Federal Aviation Administration for money to fund a proposed $39.4 million terminal. Moshoginis said the board has its sights set on a facility of more than 122,700 square feet, proposed to handle projected passenger use and security upgrades, Gazette Staff Writer Cedric Ricks reported.

A specially hired consulting group projected that the number of passengers flying annually from the airport would grow to 313,378 in 2025, Moshoginis said. But the FAA projects just over 278,000 will fly from Kalamazoo by that year. Data released by local officials last week indicate passenger traffic at the airport was down 8.3 percent during the first half of this year.

Moshoginis said the local airport is at a low point of a down curve but he anticipates an upturn. While funding is being sought, "That does not mean it's going to be built."

No timeline was provided for when local officials' funding application will be submitted.

Last Monday, the Kent County Department of Aeronautics announced that the core work of a $115.7 million terminal and parking improvement program at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport will start in August and September. The heart of it is the $71 million construction of a 4,881-slot, four-story parking structure. It is to be funded by the sale of bonds backed by Kent County and completed by October 2009.

Grand Rapids' effort is about to take off and, when completed, will have to be a consideration for anyone traveling into or out of West Michigan.

In a press release, the Kent County Board of Aeronautics said their project "is necessitated by current and future needs of travelers" and reflects the growth and economic strength of West Michigan."

When you fly, what airport do you use most often and why?

Let me know. E-mail can be sent to ajones@kalamazoogazette.com Standard mail can be sent to Al Jones, Kalamazoo Gazette, 401 S. Burdick St., Kalamazoo, MI, 49007.

This opinion column is written

by Al Jones. He can be reached at 388-8556 or ajones@kalamazoogazette.com


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