Airport announces expansion plans

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Airport officials unveiled a major expansion for the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.

The airport expansion includes plans for a new concourse to be added where the old Terminal "A" once stood, upgrading the concessions and waiting areas, and streamlining security into one central checkpoint.

"After you go through security, then you will be able to meander from concourse to concourse A, B, or C without having to go back through security to re-enter," said the Airport Authority's president, Al Denson. "That in itself will be a great asset to travelers."

The airport will also add a customs checkpoint to give the airport the option of having direct international flights.

"If you're gonna be a big time city, you're gonna have to have a big time international airport. We haven't had that," said Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford. "We've talked a good game, now it's time to play one."

"It's so important, particularly on international flights for us to have the opportunity to bring in those international companies because they prefer that direct flight access," said Birmingham Business Alliance economic developer, Patrick Murphy.

City councilor and Airport Authority Board member, Steven Hoyt said the economic impact of the project could top $1 billion. But to get there, the airport is asking for funding from the FAA, Dept. of Homeland Security, and is asking to extend its lease with the city allowing it to sell as much as $150 million in bonds.

Passengers may end up paying for the expansion if the airport is allowed to raise the $4.50 fee per ticket in a convenience fee.

"Airport operators throughout the country are working to see if we can get that dollar amount raised," Denson said.

"The passenger facility charge has been a great mechanism to help airports undertake specific construction."

Airport officials say they don't have a final price for the entire project and aren't sure how long it will take to complete.

They're hoping to start work in early 2011 and will keep this terminal open even during construction.