Road work would accommodate expected airport traffic growth

February 12th, 2018

By Doug LeDuc | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

Fort Wayne International Airport will take a another important step toward expansion of its terminal capacity when it starts construction next year on a new entrance road.

The $3.3 million terminal entrance road project will create additional space needed for parking, passenger pickup and drop-off, as well as the potential future expansion of the terminal facility in years to come, airport officials said.

“Today we are handling our passengers well, but we needed to make sure we are in a position to handle additional travel moving forward as well,” said Scott Hinderman, executive director of airports for the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority.

“As Fort Wayne is on ‘The Road to One Million’ in population, we need to make sure we are in a place to accommodate that growth.”

The airport set a record for passenger boardings in 2016, and Hinderman said its 2017 traffic was up 1 percent by that measure at the end of November, compared with the same period in 2015.

An increase of 1 percent “is not a lot, but we’re very positive and hopeful we will have a strong finish and remain up year over year,” he said.

The 2016 record was set with 365,884 boardings, topping a previous record of 360,010 boardings set in 2000. Airport officials said 2016 also marked its seventh consecutive year of growth in total passenger traffic, which includes the number of passengers getting off aircraft was well as boarding it.

The new terminal entrance road will be built just west of Second Street and will align with it, and the project will include construction of a new monument sign and new entrances into economy and short term parking.

It also will involve the updating of signs and of lighting in the parking lots and roadway as well as the construction of a new cell phone lot and the demolition of an existing hangar.

Around the same time all this is underway, the city of Fort Wayne will help accommodate heavier use of the airport by adding a third lane to a 1.1-mile stretch of Ardmore Avenue, between Airport Expressway and Second Street.

“The airport is looking at redoing the terminal entrance, which we will be coordinating with our (Ardmore) project,” said Frank Suarez, director of public information for Fort Wayne’s Division of Public Works and City Utilities.

Some commercial development has occurred along that part of Ardmore during the last 10 years, and adding a turn lane to it will eliminate or reduce congestion that occurs when customers must make a left-hand turn to get to one of the businesses there.

Since the section from Airport Expressway to the existing terminal entrance road was completed in 2007, daily traffic on that stretch of Ardmore has come close to doubling, growing to about 6,950 vehicles from about 3,600 vehicles, Suarez said.

The terminal’s existing entrance road will continue to handle traffic to it until the new entrance road opens. The project is expected to require 205 construction days, with some of the demolition work for it starting this winter.

The new cellphone parking lot will be built just southwest of the hangar that will be torn down at the southwest intersection of Second Street and West Ferguson Road.

The airport authority plans to invest $1.2 million in a new hangar, which will be built on the west side of the airport near its upscale Fort Wayne Aero Center fixed-base operations facilities.

It is not part of the new terminal entrance road project and “we hope to be under construction for the new hangar as soon as spring comes,” Hinderman said.

The Aero Center is almost 1,500 feet directly southwest of the airport terminal building, and an aircraft fuel station is an additional 1,000 feet beyond the FBO building. Trucks are used to fuel the aircraft.

The FBO facility that was replaced by the Aero Center early in 2016 was demolished to allow for the terminal’s eventual westward expansion, Hinderman said at the time.

FW Armstrong, an Indianapolis consultant that helped develop a 20-year master plan for the airport, recommended replacing four lower-level gates used by smaller turboprop aircraft with the kind of upper-level gates used by regional jets.

This could be accomplished through the construction of wings on each side of the terminal, with a new 9,000-square-foot west wing accommodating three gates and a 7,000-square-foot east wing accommodating two gates, Armstrong said.

“We will be looking at adding probably two more gates,” Hinderman had said. “We’re still conceptual, but do know that as soon as we push the building that way we have to allow room for aircraft. We are not expanding the terminal building next year but we need to get in that direction. We’re planning for terminal expansion and where their office space is today is in the way.”

The terminal has eight gates where passengers get on and off the planes, with the first four at ground level between the car rental and baggage claim area at the east end of the facility and the airline ticket counter area at the west end. Gates five through eight are on the second level, above and just south of the ticket counter area.

To provide the airport authority with a future option of adding gates nine and 10 to the terminal’s upper level, an early stage of the plan calling for relocation of the FBO facility was “critical because our terminal building is going to expand to the west,” Hinderman said.