Gerald R Ford International Airport has broken ground on the first phase of a new federal inspection station (FIS) to bring direct international travel to West Michigan, US.

As part of the initiative, Phase I construction works will begin from the east end of the terminal and will see the construction of a new baggage claim area, restrooms and operations infrastructure.

Ford Airport president and CEO Tory Richardson said: “Phase I of this project is an important step forward as we work to bring direct international travel to West Michigan.

“Creating this additional space will signal to the federal government we are serious about creating an FIS at the Ford Airport while offering us needed additional baggage claim area in the meantime.

“We are thankful for funding from the MEDC, which required us to begin this project now. While our numbers, like those of every airport around the country, have been impacted by Covid-19, we have seen steady growth in the number of passengers throughout this summer and are ahead of our projections.”

As part of Project Elevate and one of three developments for Ford Airport, the FIS project aims to accommodate projected passenger growth over the next two decades.

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Project Elevate secured a grant of $5m from MEDC to begin work on the curbside improvements required for FIS and that are estimated to cost $30m.

The FIS project will also see the construction of permanent homes at the airport for customs officers, enabling CBP to combine multiple locations into a single facility.

The airport will build a corridor from Concourse B that will be linked to a dedicated customs area, complete with screening equipment, security, holding cells and other FIS requirements.

Once fully operational, the FIS will have the capacity to screen 400 passengers an hour.

Ford Airport also affirmed that Project Elevate will be financed entirely using federal and state grants, municipal bonds issued by the airport and user fees.

Project Elevate was announced last August. Construction was scheduled to begin in spring 2020 but was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The airport authority has also detailed plans to expand Concourse A and to relocate the current air traffic control tower to the east side of the airfield.