Jack Edwards Airport in Gulf Shores, Alabama, is making plans for a passenger terminal.

By John Mullen

September 13, 2019 – Orange Beach, AL – (OBA®) – The landing strip at Jack Edwards Airport in Gulf Shores has had the runway space to land planes as large as 737s for a few years.

“We’ve been able to since the last runway project we just didn’t have any place to park them until we finished this apron,” Airport Authority Manager Scott Fuller said.

On Sept. 12 the Gulf Shores Airport Authority began steps toward developing that apron into a terminal capable of parking and unloading two or three passenger airplanes. There’s room for six but the initial phase is looking to plan, design and build two or three of the first gates.

Gulf Shores Airport Authority Manager Scott Fuller says the facility is making plans for a passenger terminal.“What we can do now is we can accommodate charters with the existing facilities but for scheduled service, we don’t have a terminal so that’s the next phase,” Fuller said. “I’ve been talking to the airlines for a couple of years. But the next step is to let them know when the terminal will be ready and try to get a letter of intent from them in order for us to get grant funds to help build this thing.”

It’s part of a whole program of exciting projects in and around the airport including continuing work on getting a $4.6 million control tower built.

“Initiating the design of a new control tower and commercial airline terminal is an exciting step forward,” Mayor Robert Craft said. “The continued growth of our airport is a critical factor in providing enhanced economic development opportunities for our entire community.”

Gulf Shores has spent about $1.2 million to improve roads at the airport and inside the Business and Aviation Park. City officials have their fingers crossed for a grant application through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grant Program that is dedicated to rail, transit and port projects. If approved the city would have to come up with about $8 million of the total $23 million estimated for the project.

“The others will be tying into the new Waterway District and the new expressway,” Fuller said. “That’s still under the federal BUILD program they are trying to get now. The $1.2 million is just for the interior road which will go to the road to the terminal and to complete the loop around the Business and Aviation Park.”

If the BUILD application is successful, it will give the airport access to the Foley Beach Express via the new road and bridge project the Alabama Department of Transportation is building due east of the airport.

Fuller said the cost of the new terminal is not determined yet but the authority is moving forward with preliminary plans that will give them an idea on price.

“We’ve done an agreement with Barge, which is our airport engineer, to go ahead and do a conceptual design of the terminal,” Fuller said. “That’s about a 60- to 90-day project. What we need to do based on the amount of passengers, the space, the needs of the TSA and everything else how big this thing should be, the layout, come up with a good budget for the facility.”

The authority has had money set aside for years earmarked for terminal construction and finally is ready to move forward with those plans.

“We’ve had a placeholder on the capital improvement program for 20 years now of about $3.5 million for the terminal,” Fuller said. “We don’t even know if that’s anywhere near what we need right now based on today’s numbers. We set up the terminal project in our capital fund, transferred some money over from reserves to start it.

“The main thing is now we’re doing that conceptual design and as soon as we get that back it will say here’s where it’s going, here’s what it’s going to look like, here’s how much it’s going to cost. Our next step would be to go ahead and move forward with the design, the bid specs, get ready to bid and the actual construction.”

Getting one or two airlines onboard will be a big help when the authority starts seeking funding for the terminal. Part of that plan, Fuller said, was sending info to the website, AviationPros.com.

“The minute we have a letter of intent from an airline we want to be ready, we want to be moving,” Fuller said. “That will give us some ammunition to go to the FAA and say we need this much money to help. The next thing I expect to get is calls from who’s coming in there and that starts the negotiations. That’s basically getting the word out to the airlines that we’re ready, come talk to us.”

TOWER UPDATE

Everything is still on track with the control tower for Jack Edwards Airport and, again, funding is the main topic.

“There’re two sources,” Fuller said. “The airport improvement program which will give us 90 percent of the funding and reimburse use for 90 percent of what we’ve already spent as far as engineering. The timing on that is probably not good. If it were approved coming up in October-November it’s a possibility we can get it for next year. If not, Congress made through this FAA bill another fund called the Small Airport Fund available for control towers and that’s close to 100 percent.”

The current plan is to get the preliminaries done before Jan. 1, be ready to build next spring and open in 2021.

“The schedule right now as far as to complete the design with all the FAA comments and everything else by December of this year,” Fuller said. “Be ready for bid and bid advertise in March and complete construction next December and open up in January 2021. The funding has not been approved yet and that’s the big question mark.”

Fuller says the FAA should finalize its contract with the company that will operate the control tower by October. And, Gulf Shores is still on the fast track to get the next tower via a new approval process by the FAA.

“We’re the guinea pig,” Fuller said. “We’re on a conference call with all the FAA offices that have a say in this project from funding to airspace to flight procedures to obstruction evaluation – everybody that’s involved in it. They’re talking about how it’s working out and basically all I kept hearing throughout the entire conservation was at Jack Edwards we did this, at Jack Edwards we did that. That’s all they’re talking about.”