PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — As the Pensacola International Airport breaks records when it comes to the number of travelers, city and airport officials say it’s time to expand the airport.
“We look at numbers, roughly, the population of Pensacola going through the airport every eight days and that has its wear and tear,” Airport Director Matt Coughlin said.
In the past few weeks, escalators and some elevators stopped working. Airport officials say these problems highlight the need for expansion to accommodate so many travelers. As of Monday afternoon, the escalators have been fixed as well as five of the seven elevators.
The terminal’s last expansion was in 2011. Since 2017, the airport saw record numbers of travelers until the pandemic in 2020. Now, numbers are climbing again which means another expansion is being proposed.
“The facility is just…it was never built to handle what it’s handling right now,” Mayor Grover Robinson said.
The plan includes a larger security area and five new gates added to the 12 the airport already has. This will increase the airport’s capacity by 50 percent, according to Coughlin.
“There’s going to be a lot of design,” Coughlin said. “There’s going to be a lot of projects taking place and that’s a good problem to have because we need to set ourselves up for the future and the growth that we’re seeing.”
The design and engineering process for the terminal and parking expansion will start within the next year, Coughlin said.
The $70 million project will be paid for with local, state and federal money. Mayor Grover Robinson says it’s important to get this done now.
“Economic driver for our businesses, for just our citizens, for just a variety of different things, having a great airport is going to be important as we go forward,” Robinson said.
The mayor expects construction to be finished within three to five years.