Groundbreaking for new air traffic control tower at Albert J. Ellis Airport

ONSLOW COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - A local airport will soon be getting a major upgrade that county leaders say has been years in the making.

Onslow County commissioners broke ground at Albert J. Ellis Airport on Wednesday for a new air traffic control tower.

This will be the first control tower at the airport and airport director Chris White says whereas previously pilots have had to communicate with each other about approaches and departures, soon that will be done through the tower.

He also says the tower will contribute to more growth.

"The Albert J. Ellis Airport is growing at a significant pace, it is driven by airline services, also by the community and what the population is doing and how Onslow County has been growing is quite significant, so we believe that the airport will continue to grow," White says.

Construction is thanks in part to $2.4 million in grants from the NC Department of Transportation.

The tower is estimated to be complete by the end of 2018 at a total cost of $4.5 million.