Sun, June 16, 2024

Augusta Airport celebrates multi-million $ improvements

Elected and business leaders from across metro Augusta recently celebrated the completion of the terminal building expansion at Augusta Regional Airport.

The project includes reconfiguring Gates 3 and 4 which adds about 2,000 square feet of usable space to the east end of the terminal.

Herbert Judon, Jr., Executive Director of the airport, said, although the amount of additional space is relatively small, it is very valuable and marks an important jump forward for the airport.

Airport Executive Director, Herbert Judon, Jr.

“When the building was built back in 2008, the airline fleets were a little bit different. A lot of the regional carriers had propeller planes,” he said. So, the concept was to actually walk outside and walk to the tarmac and access the plane up a set of stairs and that has become obsolete. So, these two gates here had become obsolete, and we hardly ever use them.”

The change also necessitated the purchase of two new passenger boarding bridges, connecting from the terminal directly to the plane. The bridges feature artwork depicting what Augusta has to offer visitors. Although they were used for Masters Week travelers, Friday was the first time the public had a look.

The 5 million dollar project was paid for, in part, with funds from the federal government’s Airport Terminal Program, which is included in the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Augusta received a $3 million grant.

Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Georgia) took part in the Friday celebration. He said the infrastructure law marked a major commitment to communities across the country.

Senator Jon Ossoff speaks at airport expansion.

“For decades, the country has lagged behind our major international competitors in quality and safety of infrastructure. For decades, smaller cities and rural areas have been neglected, while the lion’s share of investment has gone through the largest cities in the country,” he said. “We saw the opportunity to change that.”

Ossoff told ABD improvements at smaller airports can drive both the economy and tourism.

“Having a world-class regional airport for Augusta means attracting jobs, workforce, investment, and wealth creation. That means, quality of life. It means folks who travel for business or travel for pleasure have easier, smoother, higher quality access to the rest of the nation and into the world from Augusta. It shouldn’t just be the big cities who have world-class airports,” he said.

Bennish Brown, President and CEO of Destination Augusta, told ABD the airport is a major part of the selling of Augusta for business travel, sporting events, and tourism.

“It’s a major part of people really believing that Augusta certainly has the amenities that they can come and enjoy,” he said. “We also talk a lot about the fact that it provides a great opportunity for people who live here to travel out from the USA, it goes both ways. You can certainly leave Augusta as a resident and enjoy the world. But those same opportunities are for people to come from all parts of the world to enjoy Augusta.”

This is one of several major projects at the airport. There is a new, off-site area dedicated to the fleets of rental cars, across from the entrance to the airport. It includes a building that gives rental agencies dedicated space for vehicle upkeep and maintenance. The airport is also demolishing its existing jet fuel tanks to build a fuel farm with four 30,000-gallon tanks.

Mayor Johnson (left) and Judon (right) hold the ribbon, while Senator Ossoff cuts.

It is hoped the improvements will entice a third airline to offer service to and from Augusta.

“We can show not only do we have gate space for additional airlines, but also that we’ve got these capital improvements at our airport,” he told ABD. “We’re trying to improve the airport, because I think the airlines obviously want to go into a market that’s profitable. But also, I think a market that is growing and vibrant.”

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