The new entrance road to Des Moines International Airport is scheduled to open Thursday, one of the first projects to be completed under a $500 million plan that includes the construction of a new terminal.

The road will improve the traffic flow for airport visitors, give visitors more time to decide where they need to turn to get to the terminal or long-term or hourly parking, and decrease congestion, airport Executive Director Kevin Foley said.

The improved traffic flow will help people, especially those coming from out of town, who may not be familiar with the area, he said.

“On the existing road, as soon as you pull onto the property, you have to start making decisions almost immediately,” he said. “This new road extends to a degree those decision-making points. Plus, it will just enhance the appearance of the airport.”

Foley said the new entrance will also alleviate possible congestion on Fleur Drive.

“There were times when we backed traffic out during business times beyond the turning lanes on Fleur and we were taking lanes away from Fleur, and this will hopefully alleviate that and allow us to keep people flowing and get them onto airport property,” he said.

The estimated cost of the road is between $36 million and $39 million, with the first phase of it funded in part by a U.S. Department of Agriculture RISE grant.

The airport has applied for additional RISE grants for the second and third phases of the road project, and Foley said he’s confident that the airport will be awarded those grants.

Although the road will open, the project won’t be finished, he said.

There is some sodding and landscaping that needs to be done, seating that needs to go in, and artwork being donated by the Greater Des Moines Art Foundation won’t be installed until later this year, Foley said.

The road, along with some other smaller projects, is needed before work on a new terminal can move forward.

Other projects have included the relocation of the FedEx facility and Des Moines Flying Service, the relocation of Signature Flight Support's facility to the south end of the terminal, and improving 28th Street to better serve those three facilities.

Once Signature completes its new building, the second and third phases of the road project, which go through Signature’s current location, can be completed, Foley said.

The design phase of the terminal project isn’t slated to begin until 2024. Construction would tentatively begin in 2026 with a new terminal opening in 2028.

Although some questions remain about the funding for a new terminal, Foley said he is optimistic the plan can remain close to the proposed timeline.

“There is so much money floating out there right now, coupled with our own bonding capacity, I’m optimistic we will be able to move forward, that we will minimally be able to keep on the timeline that’s been set to move in in 2028,” he said. “Hopefully sooner. If the money becomes available, we’ll speed the process up.”