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underbelly of plane in flight

From the Director’s Desk: Building MLI for the future

May 8, 2024

The landside of the airport, otherwise known as the pre-security side, was last updated in 1985. It predates TSA, the Americans with Disabilities Act and even rollaboard suitcases (seriously, they were invented in 1987). After 40 years, the building has reached the end of its useful life. We’re tackling the most critical areas first, but while we’re updating the infrastructure of the airport, we want to create a better sense of place. The QC Airport is often the first impression people have visiting or moving to the Quad Cities, and we want it to be the best representation of the region we call home.

The first project is underway, and it focuses mainly on baggage screening. We’re one of the last commercial airports in the U.S. that still screens baggage in front of passengers. To move it out of sight where it belongs, we’re building a new 14,600-square-foot building behind the terminal. The building will contain a belt system that feeds into the screening device and out onto a circular belt that allows airline baggage carts to drive up and collect screened luggage. It also includes a passing lane to avoid traffic back-ups during the loading process, and new, indoor parking spaces for smaller airline ground service equipment.

Gone will be the days of passengers having to take their own luggage over to TSA for screening. Takeback belts will be added behind each airline ticket counter, so ticketing agents can take your checked bags, and you’ll be on your way. It will be more efficient and less labor-intensive for airline employees, and a quicker experience for passengers as well.

Passenger impact should be minimal throughout this first project. Delta’s ticketing counter has temporarily relocated next to American, and the checked bag drop off for TSA screening will be on the far east end of the lobby, just before turning to go the security checkpoint.

Project one is expected to last 13 months.

Future project plans include replacing the noisy brick floor, creating a curbside canopy, updating restrooms, and adding companion care restrooms and nursing rooms, relocating the public meeting space to a new location for better public access, and creating an indoor/outdoor observation space.

So, will any of these improvements help get more flights? Airlines decide when and where to add flights, and it all comes down to resources and data. Do they have the resources available to support new flights in their network and does the local data of a region support a new flight. That being said, we have been touting our construction plans as a sign of investment in our community and in their passengers’ experience, which is positive.

On that note, it’s also important to reassure you that construction does not take away from efforts to bring more flights to the QC. We’ve been taking an aggressive approach over the past few years that only continues to evolve.

Project GATEWAY will take several years to complete, and current cost estimates range between $40-60 million. It will be funded through a combination of airport entitlement funds provided by the FAA, as well as funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). This funding is specifically for terminal improvements so this money would otherwise not be in our community were it not for this project and we want to continue to serve as an economic engine for our region.

We are excited to bring these changes to you and will continue to share progress along the way. You can also visit to see renderings and view project milestones.

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