Push for new local airport terminal, hope for expanded flights

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Kendall Downing

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Ill. — For a lot of local families, flying can be a real hassle. You have to drive to larger cities like St. Louis or Nashville, then pay to park your car before you ever take off.

It's not only a pain. The costs can really add up.

That's why regional airline service at Williamson County's airport is booming right now.

Flights can get you to St. Louis in about an hour to catch connections on larger carriers. But the design of the airport terminal could be standing in the way of added options.

Airport officials are hopeful they can change that. Plans are in the works to build a new airport terminal right next to the old one.

"It's inadequate in its ability to meet present-day demand but also what we envision happening here in the future," said Doug Kimmel, Williamson County Airport director.

The new terminal would be the same size as the old one but with a different layout to accommodate more people.

It will cost $10 million dollars and the airport has half the funds. They're hoping the Federal Aviation Administration can come up with the rest.

Local residents believe an airport upgrade would be good for the area.

"If we can go anywhere, easier access the better," said Helen Hayes, of Harrisburg.

Kimmel said Cape Air has increased traffic at the airport in the three years they've been offering daily service to St. Louis from Marion. He said a new terminal could lure other carriers as well, like Allegiant Air.

"They are still interested in this market," said Kimmel.

Allegiant proposed non-stop flights to Las Vegas from Marion back in 2007 but the bad economy put the brakes on that plan.

The design process for the terminal will start next year.

"We've been working on this for five years and it may take another five years," said Kimmel.

Kimmel hopes the new facility could be complete in the next three years.

As for other regional flight options in the area, Cape Air offers non-stop service from Cape Girardeau, Missouri to St. Louis.

Paducah's Barkley Airport offers daily non-stop flights to Chicago on United.

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