FAA OKs Ford Master Plan Update

GRAND RAPIDS — It’s official. The Federal Aviation Administration has accepted the master plan update and approved the airport layout plan for Gerald R. Ford International.

“They accepted the full update with some minor tweaks,” said Bruce Schedlbauer, manager of marketing and communications.

Among the most immediate of projects will be the 2006 ground breaking on a $90 million, 3,000-space parking ramp in front of the terminal. The Kent County Aeronautics Board is expected to approve the project and a funding package sometime this year, Schedlbauer said.

Aviation activity forecasts predict a doubling of both passenger and cargo activity over the next 20 years. Passenger activity is expected to grow from its current 2 million record high to 4 million over that time period. Ford International, in fact, is one of only a handful of airports across the nation that has seen continued growth in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The Aeronautics Board approved the master plan update last August. The update provides a phased blueprint for short-, intermediate- and long-term airport development in terms of the site’s infrastructure needs and plots the timing of infrastructure build-out by the years 2008, 2013 and 2023.

In addition to the new parking ramp, the recommended development plan for the next five years includes:

  • Expansion of the passenger terminal to accommodate relocation of baggage screening machines from the lobby.
  • Expansion of baggage handling capabilities and ticketing areas.
  • Expansion of the air carrier apron.
  • Modernization of general aviation facilities.
  • Relocation of the U.S. Post Office facility to the Air Cargo and Trade Center.
  • Relocation and expansion of rental car storage and maintenance facilities.
  • Construction of two additional security roads.

Intermediate- and long-range plans include expanded employee parking, site preparation for the Foreign Trade Zone, further renovation of general aviation facilities, expanded air cargo facilities, extension of taxiways and additional surface parking. The master plan also sets aside land on the north side of the airport for a future third air carrier runway.

Schedlbauer said the Aeronautics Board will prioritize the various projects and put them in a time line sequence this spring. But he also reiterated that the master plan is a living document in that it gives airport officials the flexibility to move projects forward or push them back as they see fit, depending on aviation activity forecasts.    

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