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Hilton Head Airport gets $10M federal grant to ‘modernize.’ Here’s how it’ll be used

More direct flights are coming to Hilton Head airport. Here’s where they’ll take you

With Delta Airlines announcing new direct flights from Hilton Head Island, the airport will fly to five cities starting in the spring of 2019. Here's where they'll take you — and how much a flight could cost you.
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With Delta Airlines announcing new direct flights from Hilton Head Island, the airport will fly to five cities starting in the spring of 2019. Here's where they'll take you — and how much a flight could cost you.

It’s no secret that the Hilton Head Island Airport is growing.

The north-end airport has tripled commercial jet service with three separate announcements of new flights offered by Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines in the last eight months.

Now, the airport has secured funding to expand the terminal, according to a news release.

On Wednesday, Beaufort County Airports Director Jon Rembold announced the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $10 million to the airport for “infrastructure investment,” according to the release.

Hilton Head’s grant is part of a larger program that awarded $779 million to airports, “especially those serving smaller and rural communities,” according to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

The $10 million grant will fund the terminal expansion, ”specifically targeting increased airline traffic, meeting the needs of a growing number of airline customers while keeping within the historical, geographical and budgetary boundaries of Beaufort County’s development plans,” Rembold said.

Delta begins flights between Atlanta and Hilton Head May 23, and adds routes to New York City on June 8.

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An art installation in the terminal at the Hilton Head Island Airport by Alicia Eggert. Katherine Kokal, The Island Packet.

The terminal is expected to have new ticketing counters for Delta and United, Rembold told The Island Packet Wednesday. The new terminal will also add customer services such as concessions and convenience shopping, Rembold said.

He said the project is expected to be complete in the next three to four years, but could not provide renderings of the project Wednesday.

“Now that we’re getting good news about funding, we will move onto the next stages of design,” he said. “But it’ll be a much more comfortable, customer- oriented experience. We can’t wait to modernize things.”

Rembold added that the current terminal is a “pre-9/11” building that “doesn’t have the smoothest flow,” with new security checkpoints.

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The entrance to the Hilton Head Island Airport off Beach City Road as seen on April 1, 2019. Katherine Kokal The Island Packet

Two other projects are also in progress at the airport: one that would double the number of parking spaces and another that will change the entrance from Beach City Road.

Currently, the airport has 150 parking spaces. The project to double parking is independent of the terminal expansion and not funded by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Funding for the parking spaces is not secured yet, Rembold said. But, he said the airports board is “still working on that.”

The entrance will get a new sign and landscaping, according to application materials filed to the Town of Hilton Head Island April 9.

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Town of Hilton Head Island design review board application materials Submitted

That project will be funded with $100,000 of 2018 accommodations tax money and bonds from Beaufort County, Rembold said. It is “making its way through the final approvals” from the town.

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Town of Hilton Head Island design review board application materials Submitted

‘We were put in this situation by them’

Increasing the footprint of the airport isn’t exciting for everyone, though.

Residents that live in nearby Palmetto Hall Plantation have long worried about the noise of commercial jets landing at the airport, and a historic school and church that sit north of the runway are in the process of being moved to accommodate federal runway object-free zones, according to previous reporting by The Island Packet.

Since Feb. 19 Hilton Head Island Town Council has been discussing land acquisition related to St. James Baptist Church and the Old Cherry Hill School in executive session.

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A business jet takes off over St. James Baptist Church in February 2010. The boom of commercial jet service to the Hilton Head Island Airport has put places such as the church and the Old Cherry Hill School in jeopardy. Island Packet staff.

The church has put together a committee to participate in the negotiations, but pastor Charles Hamilton told The Island Packet in March that the relocation of the school and the construction of a new church will temporarily fracture the community that calls the Gullah buildings home.

“We were put in this situation by them, we didn’t ask to be here,” he said of the town and the airport. “When we move, they’re responsible for that. They’re responsible for making us whole again.”

Hilton Head Island's St. James Baptist Church (1886) will be rebuilt at another location, leaving the historic chapel to remain in the area of historic Mitchelville.

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Katherine Kokal moved to South Carolina in 2018 after graduating from the University of Missouri and loves everything about the Lowcountry that isn’t a Palmetto Bug. She has won South Carolina Press Association awards for in-depth and government beat reporting. On the weekends, you can find Kati doing yoga and hiking Pinckney Island.
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