With many projects and opportunities on the horizon for Wilmington International Airport, officials have started work on a vision plan that will help guide the airport’s actions and share its strategies with the public.
Work on the report began earlier this month when New Hanover County Airport Authority board members received information from airport staff about various upcoming projects and initiatives at a work session. Airport director Jeff Bourk said this information will be compiled into a report that outlines “what we’re trying to accomplish over the course of the next five years, how we’re going to accomplish it, what the budget is going to be, where the funding is going to come from — all those types of things.”
Now that board members have been debriefed, they will meet in committees to iron out the details used to compile the final document, which is expected to be ready this spring.
“We’re going to go back through committees, and then we will refine all of the details, and we’ll have a report in March,” Bourk said.
In addition to strategies for business development on airport grounds, which has seen a surge in activity recently with ground leases signed for more than 100 acres
since late 2021, the report will cover priorities for future air service development and capital projects. Over the next five years, necessary capital improvements could include runway maintenance, relocation of a taxiway for aircraft, construction of additional hangars for storing private aircraft, expanded parking options and work on the terminal’s front curbside.
The latter emerged as a top priority in preliminary discussions at the work session, according to Bourk. Growth in passenger traffic at ILM required an expansion of the airport’s terminal, which received a new concourse with three additional gates as part of a $75 million multi-phase project that will conclude this year. Now the terminal is equipped to handle more than a million total passengers each year, which is on par with ILM’s performance in 2022
, while the roadway and front curbside remain the same as when the airport first opened.
“That was designed in 1990 for a terminal and traffic levels that were half of what they are today,” Bourk said.
As Airport Boulevard approaches the terminal entrance, the road expands into a four-lane rounded loop. Plans to improve the front curbside are still in the early stages, but Bourk identified an "elongating" of the roadway’s curve as a key change needed in the project. The curve makes it difficult for vehicles to remain in the lane closest to the terminal when dropping off or picking up passengers, which can obstruct traffic.
Work on improvements to the curbside and roadway could begin as soon as July, depending on the Federal Aviation Administration’s response to a grant application submitted by the airport last year. If approved, the federal grant could allocate $15 million toward the project.