Editor’s note: This story was originally published by the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.
A proposed expansion to Boeing’s operations at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport is in its early stages, officials say.
A predevelopment agreement between the Metro East airport and Boeing for a project to expand Boeing’s existing defense-related operations received initial approval from the St. Clair County Public Building Commission at a recent meeting.
MidAmerica Airport Director Bryan Johnson said the possible development at the south end of the airport could have a substantial financial impact for the region and St. Clair County.
“WE KNOW THAT AVIATION BY ITS NATURE IS A CATALYST FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH,” JOHNSON SAID. “WHETHER IT’S THIS PROJECT, PROJECTS THAT ARE UNDERWAY, OR PROJECTS THAT ARE COMPLETED — THEY ARE ALL PART OF THAT.”
“It’s like with any airport; we look to advance the airport, whether it’s with aviation projects or non-aviation projects,” he added.
Johnson was hired in 2020 to replace Tim Cantwell, who retired after running the airport for 17 years.
Officials would not release the details or a possible cost of the full project.
The expansion would be centered around a “tenant development” for Boeing on a 35-acre parcel at the airport, officials said. A new taxiway would serve the project. A new entrance off Illinois Route 4 would be built if the project receives full approval from both Boeing and MidAmerica.
Kurt LaBelle, a Boeing representative, said Tuesday that no final decisions have been made about the expansion, but that the pre-development agreement will “aid in the decision-making process.”
The airport is home to a Boeing manufacturing facility where production and flight test activities take place across a range of defense-related programs. A large number of test flights have taken place at the airport over the past several years.
Johnson said the project is in a “due diligence” phase that will take up to a year. The board’s approval allows the airport and Boeing to study what would need to be done to complete the project before “significant” planning, design and construction can begin.
“As is the case with any project, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” Johnson said. “Before any kind of construction, before any kind of shovel goes in the ground, and before any kind of commitment can be really made, there’s a substantial degree of hard work and due diligence that has to be performed by both parties.”
MidAmerica officials estimate the project would take three to four years. Boeing said it couldn’t comment on the timeline.
The new development is one of the ongoing projects at the airport, which in September received a $6.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to expand its terminal by more than 41,000 square feet.
A MetroLink extension from the Shiloh-Scott Station to MidAmerica is also in the works, funded by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois infrastructure plan. Roughly $96 million has been set aside for the project.
Kavahn Mansouri is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.