Highly paid consultants are preparing to gaze into a crystal ball of facts and figures to forecast future passenger numbers at the Myrtle Beach International Airport, which will also indicate the potential growth of tourism across the Grand Strand.
The goal of this new master plan is to predict development needs from passenger growth through the airport over the next 20 years.
It’s only been ten years since the last study was completed, but officials say a lot has changed since then while tourism visits continue to rise across the Myrtle Beach area.
“That is an issue that needs to keep pace with growing demand for passengers,” said Mike Floyd, vice president of Parrish and Partners in Columbia, which will be the prime consultant on the project.
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The details of what will be studied in the new plan were presented to the county transportation committee Monday, after which they were few questions.
“Can I ask, how much is this going to cost?” said Councilman Gary Loftus, the panel chairman.
The final cost of the study has not reached final negotiations, airport officials said.
The county budgeted upwards of $2.5 million for the study. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will pay for 90 percent of the cost, while 10 percent will be picked up by local government.
Floyd estimated the entire cost would be under $2 million.
Despite the relatively new airport terminal, Floyd said the facilities are strained on the general aviation side, as well as space for terminal gates that could accommodate new and existing carriers.
In addition to forecasting future aviation demands, the plan will determine the useful life of the facility, identify what investments are needed, and which state and federal government agencies are willing to help pay for it.
It will examine air cargo, as well as passenger travel demands, growth needs for terminals, parking, and curbside use.
The airport was converted from a former Air Force base first constructed in the 1950s, so the study will include an examination of the state of underground utilities including gas, water and sewer to determine if any lines needs replacing.
“We’ll investigate a host of options and bring those back to the county, before the airport staff, and vent those out to what everybody agrees is the best option,” Floyd said.
The study will also take a look at nearby Myrtle Beach International Technology and Aerospace Park (ITAP) to determine the best use of that property and create a development plan to serve the airport and surrounding community, Floyd said.
It will take one year to draft the study, plus an additional six months before it is presented to the county for approval. The plan must be approved by the county, as well as the FAA, before it is put into action.