CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Monday to announce an $8.68 million grant to help with a major terminal expansion project.

The funding will cover the cost of eight passenger boarding bridges for the new gates under construction.

“This airport is able to handle more travelers,” Buttigieg said. “They can walk or roll more comfortably from their gate to their plane.”

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law created the Airport Terminal Program, which will provide a billion dollars a year for five years to make improvements across the country.

“It’s going to make traveling better. It’s going to allow Grand Rapids to accommodate that increasing passenger growth and support the economic opportunity that is emerging across West Michigan,” Buttigieg said. 

The goal of the airport infrastructure funding is to improve and modernize aging airports.

“Today when you look at global rankings of great airports not a single airport in the United States ranks among the world’s top 25 and we feel those short comings too often flying through terminals that need a lot of work and now we are in a position to fix that,” Buttigieg said. 

The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce has sent a letter to the FAA requesting funding to replace the aging air traffic control tower, which opened in 1963. The current location of the tower is preventing future expansion. News 8 asked the secretary about where that request stands.

“Today’s announcement is about the terminal program, which is the passenger facing side, but of course the air traffic control and safety infrastructure is critically important. We’re aware of this request for support and there are other programs alongside the terminal program we’re announcing today where that could be eligible certainly one that the FAA is aware of and will get very full and fair consideration,” Buttigieg said.