Ford Airport starts first project to bring direct international travel to West Michigan

Gerald R. Ford International Airport releases a graphic rendering of a planned federal inspection station. Work began on the project Wedesday, Sept. 16, 2020. (WWMT/Ford Airport)

The Gerald R. Ford International Airport broke ground on phase one of its new federal inspection station, which would ultimately allow the airport to support nonstop international commercial passenger flights, airport represenatives said Wednesday.

They said construction on the first phase will take place on the east end of the terminal, and will include a new baggage claim, restrooms and operations infrastructure that will be used for domestic flights until the full project is complete.

The federal inspection station was one of the three developments of Project Elevate to accommodate more passengers expected over the next 20 years, representatives said.

The station was expected to cost $30 million. Representatives said no local taxpayer dollars will be used to finance Project Elevate, but it would be paid for with a combination of federal and state grants, and municipal bonds issued by the airport and user fees.

As of Sept. 16, 2020, the airport cannot process direct international arrivals, other than private aircraft. The new federal inspection station will be able to screen 400 passengers per hour, when fully built, representatives said.

Samantha May is a digital news producer, and can be reached at