River & Bay’s budget includes razing Wilmington Airport motel to make way for parking

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Image courtesy of the Delaware River and Bay Authority.
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Delaware River and Bay Authority commissioners have approved a capital improvement program and five-year strategic plan, including funding for airports, bridges, and ferries.

The two-state agency’s budget includes razing a motel at the Wilmington (ILG) Airport (formerly New Castle Airport) to make way for parking as Avelo Airlines continues to provide service. Avelo has a station at Wilmington that has employed upwards of 100 people. Improvements to the aging ILG airport terminal are also in the budget.

DRBA’s management lease at ILG is slated to expire next year. Still, signs indicate a new agreement being signed with New Castle County after earlier indications that a private operator might be an option. The airport site, which includes a National Guard base is a large employment center.

The 2024 capital budget of $132.7 million is comprised of $116.7 million in authority resources and nearly $16 million in federal, state, and local grant funds.

“A healthy, reliable infrastructure network is vital for economic growth and prosperity,” said Vince Meconi, chief operations officer for the DRBA. “Millions of people rely on our family of transportation services to move goods and services, get to a family vacation or to commute to work every day. This CIP is an investment in our collective future.”

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Two Avelo jets are based at New Castle Airport.

The five-year plan contains 120 major capital projects at the Delaware Memorial Bridge (DMB), the Cape May-Lewes Ferry , the Forts Ferry at Delaware City, Wilmington Airport, Millville Executive Airport, Cape May Airport, the Delaware Air Park and the Civil Air Terminal and serves as a planning tool for long-term needs

Delaware Memorial Bridge tolls are the DRBA’s primary source of revenue and subsidizes losses from ferry service. Airports operate on a mainly break-even basis with some federal funding.

The budget includes the following:

Terminal Improvements- Wilmington ILG  This project programs the cost to finalize design of the improvements as needed to expand and modify the terminal, including hold room capacity and frontage improvements, as well as expand opportunities for improved customer service.  This project has an estimated DRBA cost of $1,951,000 in 2024 and $4,659,000 in the out years.

Motel Demolition- Wilmington ILG: The Authority has acquired control of the Comfort Inn Skyways adjacent to the Wilmington Airport terminal building, which it does not plan to operate. The project will demolish existing hotel buildings and provide immediate temporary parking. This project has an estimated DRBA cost of $2,847,000 in 2024 and $502,000 in the out years. With the entry of Avelo flights (primarily to Florida), parking has been an issue during peak periods such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Ship Collision Protection ‐ Memorial Bridge – This project provides a protection system meeting current standards. It has an estimated DRBA cost of $25,240,000 in 2024 and $18,016,000, (2025-2028).

War Memorial Refurbishment- near Memorial Bridge:   The project programs the design and restoration of the existing War Memorial. It will also add the names of all military personnel from Delaware and New Jersey who were killed in the Vietnam War and subsequent conflicts to the main monument. This project has an estimated DRBA cost of $4,500,000 in 2024.

Annual Bridge Steelwork Repairs ‐ Memorial Bridge:  This project makes miscellaneous steelwork repairs to preserve the bridge’s steelwork while maintaining safety and operational service levels. Work typically includes replacement of worn bearing assemblies, access platforms, maintenance of steel connections, installing new safety features, suspender rope replacement, and other items. This project has an estimated DRBA cost of $6,200,000 in 2024 and $47,000,000 in the out years.

MV Delaware arriving in Cape May

Annual Maintenance Bridge Span Painting ‐ Memorial Bride:  The annual bridge inspection report recommends continued repairs to the coating system of the Delaware Memorial Bridge to protect the structural steel on specific spans. The project will strip affected areas to bare metal and recoat with a 3‐layer protective overcoat system. This project has an estimated DRBA cost of $8,338,000 in 2024 and $25,525,000 in the out years.

Cape May Ferry Approach Roads Rehabilitation: Pavements at the toll approach are deteriorating and improvements are necessary to maintain expected service levels at the Cape May Terminal. The project proposes the design and construction for roadway reconfigurations at the terminal entrance, approach road improvements, and Cape May highway signage replacement. This project has an estimated DRBA cost of $3.1 million in 2024 and $1.9 in the out years. The project is partially funded in the amount of slightly more than $2.4 million by the New Jersey DOT.

Annual Vessel Maintenance & Dry Docking- Ferry: The project programs annual capital expenditures for the three vessels, particularly in areas that preserve these assets and improve passenger safety and operational reliability. Planned projects include but are not limited to vessel shipyard dry dockings, purchase of life-saving equipment, seating replacements, systems efficiency upgrades, generator overhauls, and miscellaneous improvements. This project has an estimated DRBA cost of $3,305,000 in 2024 and $43,913,000 in the out years.

Beach Drive Improvements – Ferry Cape May:  Beach Drive is presently a narrow two‐lane Lower Township-owned road with no shoulders or dedicated pedestrian access. Improvements include widening lanes, adding a protected pedestrian walk and bikeway, and street lighting. This project has an estimated DRBA cost of $250,000 in 2024 and $1,250,000 in the out years.

New Vessel Design & Construction – Ferry:  This project includes the design and construction to replace vessels in the ferry fleet. Design will include all stages of design for the new vessels from concept to final design.  Project management/construction support will cover needs during contract bidding, construction, and post‐construction. This project has an estimated DRBA cost of $2,000,000 in 2024 and $107,130,000 in the out years. It is anticipated that the project will be partially funded with federal assistance.

Fender Replacements- Ferry: High-strength fiberglass fender panels were installed during the late 1990s at both terminals to resist vessel impact along the bulkhead. These panels have reached the end of their service life and are being replaced with steel panels similar in shape and size. This project has an estimated DRBA cost of $874,000 in 2024 and $936,000 in the out years.

New Multi-Purpose Building- MIV: The existing terminal building’s layout and condition are not conducive to future terminal functions and the facility is poorly located. This project programs for the construction of a new multi‐purpose building located in a more optimal location for future expansion. This project has an estimated DRBA cost of $50,000 in 2024 and $5,950,000 in the out years.

New Box Hangars: There is a need for additional hangars at the Millville Airport. The project programs the design and construction of new box hangars to address this demand. This project has an estimated DRBA cost of $500,000 in 2024. The project is partially funded for approximately $1.5 million by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Third Multi-Tenant Building: Cape May Airport has experienced increased development and business interest. The Authority has constructed and fully leased two multi‐tenant buildings, and there is demand for more. The project provides for the construction of an additional multi‐tenant light industrial building to accommodate new tenancy requests. This project has an estimated DRBA cost of $1,000,000 in 2024 and $4,341,000 in the out years.

Hangar Bank “F” Construction- 33N: There is a need for additional hangars at the Delaware Air Park. The project programs the construction of additional box hangars to address this demand. This project has an estimated DRBA cost of $578,000 in 2024. The project is funded for approximately $844,000 by the Federal Aviation Administration.

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