Asheville Regional Airport receives $10 million for expansion, improvements

PREPARE FOR TAKE OFF: Asheville Regional Airport Executive Director Lew Bleiweis, center, accepted $10 million in federal grants presented by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, left, and Republican Sen. Thom Tillis on behalf of the airport to be used for updates and expansion. Photo by Brooke Randle

Asheville’s nearly 60-year-old airport is about to get an update, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Transportation. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and Republican Sen. Thom Tillis presented the airport with $10 million in federal grants, part of $485 million in federal funding for airports across the country, during a media event at the airport on Nov. 22.

Asheville Regional Airport Executive Director Lew Bleiweis said that a portion of the $10 million will go to demolishing the airport’s existing terminal and building a brand-new terminal to keep up with rising demand. In 2018, the airport served over 1.13 million passengers, an 18.6% jump from 2017’s total and over 67% more travelers than used the airport five years prior. He said the airport will expand from seven gates to 12 and add more aircraft parking spaces to serve those gates.

The money will also be used to address deficiencies in the airport’s aging infrastructure, including its air traffic control tower. Bleiweis said that the Asheville Regional Airport control tower is currently the oldest operating federal control tower in the country.  

While the schedule is evolving, Bleiweis said the project is likely to begin after a 12-18 month design period, which will include input from the public. 

“Our goal right now is to have shovels in the ground in 2021,” Bleiweis said. 

Bleiweis also acknowledged that travelers will be impacted during the improvements but said it was too early to tell how much or how the airport will address those impacts. 

“Travelers will have some inconvenience, as in any construction project. We just have to wait and see,” Bleiweis said. “We will be putting out a great amount of social media letting the community know how it will be impacted.”

Press release from the Federal Aviation Administration:

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao announced today that the Department of Transportation will award $14.9 million in airport infrastructure grants to two airports in the state of North Carolina. With this announcement, the Trump Administration has invested a historic $10.8 billion in more than two thousand American airports across the United States for safety and infrastructure improvements since January 2017.

“The robust economy is enabling more passengers to travel by air so this Administration is investing billions of dollars in America’s airports which will address safer airport operations, fewer airport delays, and greater ease of travel for air travelers,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.

Today, Secretary Chao announced that the following Airports in North Carolina will receive $14.9 million of Airport Improvement Program grants:
Asheville Regional Airport – $10 million to fund the airport terminal rehabilitation.
Coastal Carolina Regional in New Bern – $4.9 million to fund construction of an Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Station.
This is part of a $485 million federal investment in America’s airports that Secretary Chao announced today.

The Administration not only supports infrastructure through funding – it is making it possible to deliver these much-needed improvements more quickly. The Department is working hard to streamline the approval process, cut unnecessary red tape and reduce unnecessary, duplicative regulations that do not contribute to safety.

These investments and reforms are especially timely because the U.S. economy is robust, growing by 2.8 percent in the first half of 2019. Employers have added more than 6 million jobs since January 2017. The unemployment rate is still a remarkable 3.6 percent—the lowest in 50 years.

Aviation is an important part of that growth. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. civil aviation supports more than 5% of U.S. gross domestic product; $1.6 trillion in economic activity; and nearly 11 million jobs.

See a complete listing of grants on our website.


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9 thoughts on “Asheville Regional Airport receives $10 million for expansion, improvements

  1. Peter Robbins

    Say what you will about Thom Tillis, you have to admire a senator who doesn’t mind being photographed twiddling his thumbs.

    • bsummers

      I’m working on the assumption that it’s some sort of secret alt-right hand gesture, in a desperate attempt to secure conservative street cred. It sort of looks like a frog: “I’m down with the Pepe, yo.”

  2. Joseph

    The Asheville Regional Airport and it’s Executive Director Lew Bleiweis are a bought and paid for pathetic joke and it’s not surprising that Bleiweis is a Trump supporter taking a handout from daddy that is going to make flying in and out of Asheville even worse than it already is for years to come.

    Wherever they got the money for their parking “expansion” a few years ago, they screwed that up big time. Flyers now need to walk very long distances outside towing bags to get to the terminal. There is no help getting people with disabilities to the terminal from parking either.

    A friend of mine was recently verbally assaulted and threatened by one of their service desk volunteers and Bleiweis and his staff refused to respond in any way to my friend’s complaint.

    Greenville, South Carolina’s airport is less than an hour and a half away and is an extremely easy and pleasant airport to navigate. I fly from Greenville whenever possible to avoid the massive problems with AVL, including having to look at alleged serial rapists Jonas Gerard’s “art” that the Asheville Airport categorically refuses to remove from its buildings and remains an afront to all sexual assault survivors.

    • Enlightened Enigma

      lol…where’s the assault charges on Jonas? the ‘art’ is the funny part…

      • Joseph

        The charges against Gerard were dropped in 2015 with a $50,000 check and a non-disclosure, wise guy.

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