City, state and airport officials broke ground Friday for a new terminal and parking structure at Mobile International Airport — a project termed “transformational” by many of the speakers at the celebration.
The $330 million construction project is key to moving Mobile’s commercial air service from its present location on the far west side of the city to a location that’s convenient to two interstates and the rapidly growing Port of Mobile.
For a city that has lamented watching more than half its potential air travelers choose airports in Pensacola or Gulfport, the new location represents hope for more service, more destinations, more competition and lower fares.
Together with the deepening and widening of seaport facilities a stone’s throw away — “It’s the most transformational project ever undertaken by this community,” said Airport Authority President Chris Curry.
He lauded U.S. Senator Richard Shelby for his role in creating the Transportation Demonstration Program, which provided $100 million earlier this year for airport and seaport improvements “to position Mobile as a major transportation hub.”
Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said, “There have been over the years a lot of pivotal groundbreakings in our community, but this certainly stacks right up there at the top of all of them. But also, it’s an opportunity we’re going to have by locating an international airport by the fastest growing container port in America. I don’t think any of us can really envision what that will mean for the next generations of Mobilians.”
Adding the new I-10 bridge will create a “trifecta” of opportunity for the city, Stimpson said, predicting “the payout will be billions of dollars for future generations because of the deepening and widening at the port, the international airport and the I-10 bridge.”
Stimpson credited Shelby as the one person who turned these transportation plans from dream to reality. “If it wasn’t for his 50-plus years of public service and his knowledge of how to work the political process and all the relationships that he has built over the years, were it not for all that, I’m not sure that we would have — matter of fact, I’m sure that we would not have — the funding secured for this project.”
Airport Board Chairman Elliot Maisel suggested that the airport would improve the lifestyle of the city, saying “all that trickle-down effect of all those jobs and all that revenue will make our city a much better place to live and raise our children.”
Also calling the project “transformational,” Gov. Kay Ivey said, “Mobile holds the unique position of becoming the ultimate transportation hub,” which will benefit not just the state but also the entire nation.
“About 300 years ago, the French came here,” Shelby quipped in a nod to Toulouse, France-based Airbus, which is next door to the new terminal. “They knew what they were doing. They sailed in here. Now they’re flying out, aren’t they?”
Noting that the seaport is the reason Mobile is where it is, Shelby said, “You’ve got a beautiful port; you’ve got an airport … that’s going to be bigger and better; you’ve got five railroads coming into the port, and you have two interstate highways within walking distance —you’ve got the unique situation and you’ve got the people. So Mobile is uniquely situated for an intermodal center second to none.”